Monday, February 06, 2006

Freedoms I

As any democrat, I believe that the Freedom of Expression and more concretely the Freedom of the Press is one of the pillars of (our) democratic societies and a condition sine qua non for ensuring the balance of powers through respecting the elementary rights of the communities and voicing their beliefs.

Therefore, it is quite natural and reasonable that we can find it in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, within article 19 that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers".

Nobody disputes this article, as no-one disputes the preceding one, art. 18 that states “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Amazingly, during these days we could be led to believe that these two rights could actually be contradictory, just because of the clash between two different kinds of fundamentalisms, since I believe it is not only from Islamic communities that we are witnessing radicalism but also from the side of the media.

I consider that the reproduction by different newspapers around Europe of the caricatures representing Prophet Muhammad is an attempt against Islamic religious beliefs, as the Islam forbids the depiction of Muhammad (as well as of Allah).

Being an atheist, I strongly believe that the religious beliefs have to be respected as such, even if judging them, even if considering them illogical, as long as they respect the individual rights.

And I don’t even think that in this case it is illogical, as it is based on the argument that the representation of Muhammad or Allah could lead to idol worship.

The bottom line, is that agreeing or not, as it constitutes a strong religious belief it should be respected, in “teaching, practice, worship and observance”.

Of course that the reactions by Islamic followers, namely in Syria and Lebanon are extremist (as every reaction that recurs to violence) but I surely hope that this unfortunate episode leads to a strong debate about media ethical grounds.

Of course I do not defend that the Freedom of Press should regulated by any other mean that the common sense and the ethics of editors. But they should be also called to the responsibility on these riots, for sticking to a fundamentalist position over the defense of the alleged threatened Freedom of Press.

Instead, I fear that with their attitude they may be the ones threatening this freedom, as everyone would rest assure if knowing that it is also based in self-regulation processes from a press that understands our society, our conflictual worlds, that knows and respects intercultural and religious differences and that acknowledges that the “freedom of thought” goes hand-in-hand with the freedom of conscience and religion.

That’s why I don’t know which of these extremisms scares me the most…


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