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Freedom of Speech - a responsibility not a right

05 April 2014, 13:06

Freedom of Speech is a much debated topic and one of the cornerstones of a good democracy. South Africa is one of a few countries where this right enjoyed and appreciated. I do think, however, that in as much as one can obtain a car licence, it does not give you the freedom the drive recklessly, yet the phenomenon is clearly visible when looking at Freedom of Speech.

Seemingly South Africans, if considering the political campaigning and comments on social media sites as a measure, seem to equate Freedom of Speech as a licence to insult and make sweeping statements. Hence my argument that Freedom of Speech is a responsibility, and not a right. Rights are based on the responsible use of the framework which it is intended to provide. Freedom of Speech as a framework should therefore be considered in light of the following responsibilities:

·         * The responsibility to address each other with respect;

·         * The responsibility to be factual;

·         * The responsibility to address the issue and not to attack the person;

·        *  The responsibility to listen especially where opinions differ;

·         * The responsibility to think objectively;

·         * The responsibility to not assume especially where assumptions are based on prejudices;

·         * The responsibility to debate and use public platforms correctly and effectively.

I am sure one can expand on this list.

Actions speak louder than words, and behaviour is rather the guiding factor in which to judge. Again reflecting on the comments (between parties about parties, social media sites, etc.) our actions don’t seem to embrace a common goal to create a better South Africa – Freedom of Speech is not to be used as a weapon against each other (in terms of cultural, race, nationality, educational and other differences), but should be used as a tool to create a common understanding and for healthy debate. In addition Freedom of Speech should also be used to give credit where credit is due – I just want to see that one of the political parties actually laud another party for the things they actually do right!

What a wonderful democracy it would be if we stop working against each other, but start working together!

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