"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Friday, 31 October 2014

What does Freedom of Speech really mean?

Breaking news does not - almost by definition - always give the full or entirely correct facts of a situation. Yesterday morning the wonderful organisation Hope not Hate posted on facebook that postal workers in Rochester had refused to deliver election leaflets on behalf of the far right Britain First party. I re-posted this link and it started up a lively debate. Looking at the Hope not Hate website later in the day it transpired that in fact it was Royal Mail who had in fact decided that the communications from BF did not comply with the law and refused to deliver.

However some commentators in the press and elsewhere still seem to think that organisations like Britain First should be allowed to say what they like without censorship under the 'Freedom of Speech' banner. I am - as you may have noticed - a passionate advocate of freedom and the right to say whatever one likes WITHIN REASON.

And that's the thing. Freedom cannot be had without responsibility. And surely that word 'responsibility' encompasses legal and moral obligations. The legal obligations are to keep the laws and if one considers the laws to be wrong, to campaign to change these. The moral obligations are to treat one's fellow citizens as one would wish to be treated oneself. Most major religions have tenets to cover this but 'Mrs DoAsYouWouldBeDoneBy' in Kingsley's The Water Babies sums it up pretty succinctly just by her name.

And as a btw, I understand that postal workers have the right to refuse to deliver any leaflets that they consider to be offensive, although it is illegal for them to refuse to deliver anything that has a stamp on it. The BF leaflets in question were just that, leaflets. In the past postal workers have refused to deliver BNP leaflets. And as one commented, 'if we did deliver them we would have had to put up with the offensive comments from the customers who didn't want to receive them'.

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