Tuesday, February 07, 2006

rights and responsibilities

Along the lines of what I had articulated in a previous post last week on freedom of speech tempered with responsibility, some voices have been saying the same.

In a report for the BBC, Paul Reyolds wrote that “In order to minimise the damage done, [Western] governments have made a determined effort to suggest that the Danish newspaper which first printed the cartoons and the others elsewhere which reprinted them had a right to publish but a responsibility not to publish.”

From the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw: "The right of freedom of speech in all societies and all cultures has to be exercised responsibly and does not extend to an obligation to insult."

From the French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy: "Freedom of expression confers rights, it is true - it also imposes the duty of responsibility on those who are speaking out."

And last week, the Vatican expressed its views: “freedom of thought or expression ... cannot imply a right to offend the religious sentiments of believers.”

Those other voices out there that hold up this kind of freedom absolutely (like the Christopher Hitchens and the Melanie Phillipses out there who seem to cloud this very obvious principle of rights tempered with reponsibility) need only watch the pictures being beemed worldwide---pictures of a people whose deep religious convictions have been violated and mocked--to realize how a careless, irresponsible exercise of a right has sad consequences.

As wrong as the burning of embassies and consulates are, so is this misguided idea that freedom of speech can be exercised without regard to responsibility.

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