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For freedom of opinion – against political lies!

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Declaration of Human Rights.
Written by Heli Santavuori

Freedom of opinion and expression is the most important human right. Access to diverse information is an essential part of it. [1]

A person who repeatedly distorts the opinions of others or defames them personally for political reasons is not exercising the freedom of speech. S/he is, in fact, assuming the powers of a censorship authority. It is a human rights violation – not only of the rights of the target of the distortion and defamation but also of other citizens. S/he restricts access to possibly important information.

It is a historical fact, that a critique against outdated ideas, which are used to defend established social injustices, is initially in the minority and triggers even primitive reactions from the representatives of the privileged circles.

Defamation can also be a crime against political rights. If the purpose is to serve the interests of a foreign power, it can in some cases be considered treason. The Internet has radically aggravated the problem of this kind of political crimes.

How to define freedom of opinion and expression? – We need a broad discussion about this so that states can take steps to reform their penal codes if needed.

The best way to promote freedom of opinion and expression of all citizens is to strive for implementing the principle “One must get economical awards for truthfulness, solidarity and a sense of justice.”

On the basis of this general vision, many practical applications are possible.

We believe this principle, as well as a new definition of freedom of opinion, will some day be incorporated into the constitution of every democratic state.

However, with legislation alone, it is not possible to counter distortion, slander and lies. The tendency to be blinded in heated political discussions – as well as in personal disputes – is deeply rooted in human nature. This is why we also need the Citizens Truth Forum.


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[1] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19: “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 and regardless of frontiers.”

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Declaration of Human Rights.
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Eleanor Roosevelt and the Declaration of Human Rights. PHOTO: United Nations Photo, Flickr.

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