SLLC Professor on Free Speech and Charlie Hebdo

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Professor Saúl Sosnowski reflects on the nature of free speech and journalism in Literal. Professor Sosnowski, the former chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the founder of the Latin American Studies Center, is a known expert in the fields of civic education, democracy, conflict management and cultural politics. Speaking with Literal’s Tanya Huntington, Dr. Sosnowski highlights the importance of defending free speech against limitation and coercion.

Following the recent attacks at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Dr. Sosnowski speaks about reactions to the tragedy, calling it an “egregious attack by intolerant fanatics on values we hold dear; an attack on freedom of expression and on the right to live and freely practice, or not, any religion.” Dr. Sosnowski explains the connection between freedom of speech and acceptance of differences, underlining the cynicism and bigotry of those who seek to limit the civil liberties of others.

Dr. Sosnowski recalls his experience working with writers who have been persecuted for their work, throughout his decades of work studying repression, conflict resolution, and democracy in Latin America. He draws attention to the capability of both democratically elected and repressive regimes to suppress free speech while claiming to support it. Using examples drawn from Mexico, World War II Germany, and the Soviet Union, Dr. Sosnowski warns of the dangers of ignoring intolerance and limiting freedom of expression.

From Literal:

"And as an expert in conflict resolution, have you encountered instances where free speech is wielded as a weapon that exacerbates our cultural differences?

Free speech is a right, a privilege, a major defining achievement of a free society. Differences are integral to the cultural tapestry that defines and enriches us. I find nothing wrong in underscoring those differences, whether it is through the seemingly ‘politically correct’ modus operandi of some societies, or through the most acerbic, acid humor that constitutes a satirical discourse.

If the subtext of your question hints at whether free speech can go too far, the answer is: never to the point that would justify the violation of the rule of law, and certainly not the mutilations nor the murderous acts that are defining a growing number of intolerant religious factions and existing or self-proclaimed states."

Read the complete interview at Literal.


Date of Publication: 
Tuesday, January 20, 2015