Growing up, I aspired at different times, to be a florist, a marine biologist, an archaeologist and a botanist. I worked for many years as an entomologist. I never thought I would become a writer.
Now I am a writer I am very aware of the importance of ideas, evidence, and freedom of expression in particular as a counter to the power of propaganda. I have written about the five basic rules of propaganda as defined by Norman Davies in a blog post titled ‘Interest versus Propaganda’.
Propaganda is perhaps easier to define than ‘free speech’ and usually much more subtle.
Free speech can be very offensive.
“If free speech defends only the right to be nice to others, then it is not worth defending itself. Free speech exists to protect the objectionable and the unreasonable, or it means virtually nothing.”
Today I read at Reporters without Borders that as a consequence of publishing those offending cartoons,
“At least eleven journalists are being prosecuted in five countries and six have been jailed. Some face long prison sentences if convicted. Two editors in Jordan have been charged with provocation and encouraging disorder. Four journalists have been jailed in Yemen and charged under article 103 of the press law, which bans publication of anything that “harms Islam, denigrates monotheistic religion or a humanitarian belief.”
I support the call from Reports without Borders for the imprisoned journalists to be released.
The cartoons can be seen by linking to Tim Blair’s blog.
The last paragraphs of this blog post was changed and updated, following comment and advice from readers of this weblog including those offended by the cartoons, on the morning of 20th February and the cartoons and direct link removed.