Monday, August 25, 2008

Freedom of Speech - Illusion or Reality?

Writing about politics has never been a particular forte of mine and I've never attempted tackling it one a strictly professional note, but at the same time, I've always quietly harbored a hidden passion for current affairs and admired those not afraid to voice their honest opinion (something we're all entitled to, although heavy censorship doesn't always allow it) even if it means not always being in full agreement with their leadership.

Freedom of press is an ironic and somewhat "foreign" phenomenon to me coming from a highly-censored culture (particularly the days of the Communist regime, which rarely, if ever, allowed true artistic, journalistic and political opinion among Soviet citizens) and having witnessed, albeit through second-hand sources, the outcome of these rare outbursts made public by opinionated and brave thinkers.

Yesterday's intelligentsia (wikipedia: a social class of people engaged in complex mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them) largely wiped out initially during the reign of Lenin and later Joseph Stalin, have been swiftly replaced by today's oligarchs and the few overly outspoken journalists.

The Economist made an interesting point about the struggle for democracy and censorship of the Russian media:

"The room for honest speaking is far greater than Russian intellectuals make use of."

This is partly true, as most of the mainstream political journalists in Russia have seen the fate of activists such as Anna Politkovskaya and Galina Starovoytova unfold as a result of "rebellion" against the media censorship, government's media restrictions have been by and large replaced by the inner self-censorship as a means of self-defense. "See no evil, speak no evil" - as simple as that!

Yet on the other hand, one wonders if such restrictions in voicing public and journalistic opinion, whether it's brought forward by the government of any given country or simply one's own cautiousness, could potentially result in a healthy understanding of "what's going on" instead of scripting the country's political affairs based on a prewritten outline.

But it's hard to blame those who are trying to keep their profile "low" and away from the eyes of the censor....

Regardless of what the reality of today's world and its tight protocols may impose upon our society and the price we will have to pay for this need, the freedom to speak one's mind and read - at least relatively - unbiased news reports will always remain irreplaceably vital as one of the "given" rights of a human being.

Whether we chose to struggle towards implementing this common "human right" is up to us alone... Individually and collectively.

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