Jailed for blogging

The other day I was pointed by Heather to a BBC article on the plight of some bloggers around the world and the fact that freedom of speech online doesn’t exist in all parts of the world as we like to believe it does. You can read the article here.

This article focuses on the plight of many people the world over for daring to critisize thier government using their blogs and for just doing this have ended up in jail or worse. Amnesty international are doing a fine job in bringing this to peoples attention and I would like to express my support, as a blogger, to the work they are doing here.

Further to this though is a more fundamental point about the differences in law between the rights of online journalists (bloggers) and those who write for conventional media (such as newspapers, radio etc.). What annoys me on a daily basis is how its assumed that just because you can deduce the identity of an internet user much easier than you can deduce the identity of a source for a newspaper that this should be an important factor in if a blogger is blamed or not. Every day people are losing their jobs and landing up in court because of things they write on their blogs, things they have a right to say and things they would be allowed to say with no repremand if they were to do so in conventional media.

While these issues may become less of a problem as the law evolves to take account of online media, all those who blog need to make a stand and ensure these changes happen sooner rather than later. Free speech is our right, not a privillage.


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  1. Michelle Said,

    October 31, 2006 @ 1:09 am

    Did anyone really have the impression that freedom of speach online existed in all parts of the world? I mean, the google censoring the results for China was really enough evidence for me that eedom to expression and freedom of speach was not really something that existed in all parts of the world, even for those well off enough to have access to the internet. I don’t really blame google for this, I mean, they are a business, and Kieran you have said in the past that they have an obligation to thier shareholders (well it may have been you, you definately agreed with the statement). It is clearly the government’s fault that freedom of speech is not allowed.

    However, it does beg the question of whether any sesible government would allow freedom of speach totally and utterly. I mean, over here and in America we like to think we have it, even though we blatantly don’t. If I was to support Nazi ideals (which btw, I don’t) then I would be banned from sharing them. Is that freedom of speach? Where does freedom of speach stop and racism and stuff start? If I am a horrible racist, should I have the right to express those views, screw whoever I offend, or should the government stop me from doing so? I mean, from the governments view point, it is a lot better to stop me from doing so, as they will not only get the vote from the people I am against, who number more than the racists in most cases, but they will also get the vote from most of the people who support freedom of speach as, although of course I am steriotyping here, they are also the people who are very anti-racism.

    We have to remember that, in this country, we only have freedom of speach if it suits the government, if us having freedom of speach will help the government gain power. How is this different to where in China, they are only allowed freedom of speach if it will let the government keep power? I mean, they are able to say less things, they are more likely to be arrested for saying things that we consider just an oppinion and inoffensive and stuff, but it is really no different in principle.

    I know this is all very much conspiracy theory-ish and very much like “down with the government” but I can’t see a better alternative. I mean, really, what sensible government would allow thier citezen’s true freedom of speach? I know that I wouldn’t if I was in charge of the world. Whether you ban people because their ideas are unpopular, or whether you ban people because thier ideas are contrary to yours, you are still impeaching on thier freedom of speach.

    Whoever suggested freedom of speach clearly had their head in the clouds, and didn’t realise what they were suggesting (although I am sure they were very lovely).

  2. Kieran Said,

    October 31, 2006 @ 8:54 am

    The thing about freedom of speech is its just that, speech. We live in a society of laws and then on top of that we have an idea of what is polite and acceptable.

    I think its perfectly reasonable to expect that while some forms of speech may go against what is polite and offend some people, it shouldn’t break any laws as it doesn’t directly cause damage; its only if people pay attention to it that it does.

    There is no reason for a government should legislate against what people say, more they should legislate against the potential actions resulting from what people say.

    I’m no less aware than yourself Michelle that freedom of speech in the idealistic sense doesn’t exist, however we don’t do a bad job with it on the whole.

    My main point was that compared with the freedom we have to go out on the street and talk, our rights online are quite a bit smaller by comparison, and it was this I wanted to address. For example going out on the street and saying starbucks was rubbish wouldn’t get you sacked if you worked there, but blogging about it can.

    Your point about government is valid too, they may want to contain certain things from being said, but thats much harder for a democratically elected government to do as if they constrain the ideas of free speech too much they risk losing the vote. This of course isn’t the case in other nations because they live in far less of a democracy which is perhaps another issue but none the less relevant to free speech.

    As for who came up with the idea of free speech it was a theorist, and like all good theories they are considerably harder to implement in practice 😉

  3. Chris Worfolk Said,

    October 31, 2006 @ 4:05 pm

    Google censoring the results in China – how about the fact they censor the results in Britain and the United States.

    My understanding as to the specific situation though was that US courts had started to rule that bloggers did have the same legal protection as traditional media outlets which have some strong protection in the US consitution (although recently the US courts jailed a newspaper journalist despite the constitution protection given to them so it’s not exactly the most protective constitution), in which case we would seem to be moving in the right direction.

  4. Kieran Said,

    October 31, 2006 @ 4:31 pm

    We have the same journalistic rights in America yes, although it would be nice to have them here too. The problem is that online media is still more likely to get you fired than offline media – there are still disparities. Still I do agree with you that its getting better 🙂

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