The Philosopher's Eye

News and brain candy for the philosophy community

More weak democracy; censored media

Military censorship of a different case: In Hebrew: "The Israeli military censor requires local media to clear any news item about the assassination in Dubai, from any source."

In response to danitocchetto’s recent post, “Dangerous Combination: Weak Democracy and Bad Media”, here’s another case that’s been in the news recently. In Israel, journalist Anat Kam is standing trial on charges of espionage for copying secret documents she was privy to when doing her military service, and passing them on to other journalists. She has been under house arrest since December 2009, as reported by Donald Macintyre in The Independent here.

Kam passed the documents on to Uri Blau, a journalist for the left-leaning Israeli daily Haaretz. They were allegedly used in this story in November 2008. Blau left the country in December 2009 and has not returned since, for fear of being arrested. He details what happened to him here.

The case makes clear several things. Firstly, Israel can no longer claim to have a free press when those journalists who publish reports that are inconvenient to the establishment cannot enter their own country for fear of being arrested. A fascinating article, ironically by Blau himself, on the process of Israeli military censorship, can be found here.

Secondly, it makes clear that free speech is not merely conceptual: it is a pragmatic matter that must be fought for. It is something for which the boundaries are constantly redefined in a tug-of-war between different interests. The Blau/Kam case is merely one example of this (continuous) struggle.

Further, the struggle is not to establish where the boundaries of free speech are but also what happens within these boundaries. Take as an example anonymity. Even in those countries where the press is truly free, journalists protect the identity of their sources, letting them remain anonymous. They do so to protect their right to free speech – to be able to say things for which if their identity were revealed they would be prosecuted. One might have thought that free speech and responsibility go hand in hand, but this example seems to suggest otherwise. Further, to name these sources is surely another example of free speech? In this case we might say that one instance on free speech might impinge on another.

Related articles:
Recent Work on Free Will and Moral Responsibility
By Neil Levy and Michael McKenna, University of Melbourne Florida State University
(Vol. 3, December 2008)
Philosophy Compass

Philosophy of Action and Philosophy of Religion
By Stewart Goetz , Ursinus College
(Vol. 1, September 2006)
Philosophy Compass

7 comments on “More weak democracy; censored media

  1. adam
    April 19, 2010

    I think we have to define what freedom actually is. It’s clear that there is no such thing as complete freedom, in this case, i mean to speak or write without fear of repercussions.

    This is ‘The Freedom Paradox’ – The more freedom a country enjoys, then the more policing and policy it requires to maintain this freedom”

    We are so sensitive to peoples feelings and rights, that we try to legislate for every conceivable eventuallity, thus the essence of freedom is eroded and soon reverts back to a totalitarian state.

    It’s clear that free speach is tolerated as long as it doesn’t upset anyone or expose the truth about un-ethical practices that a governments, military and businesses all take part in.

    What do you think?
    Respect and Peace!

  2. nhelmgrovas
    April 20, 2010

    Interesting point, but I’m not sure I agree. For example, the raft of restrictive state legislation in the UK following 9/11 doesn’t seem, to me at least, to simultaneously curtail and defend freedom; it merely seems to curtail it. Indeed, the standard rhetoric behind such legislation is that it protects our security, not our freedom (although George W. Bush used to love to say he was protecting America’s freedom – I think the flimsiness of this is self-evident).

    Tangential but interesting – reading up on state discipline I came across this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon

  3. nhelmgrovas
    April 21, 2010

    Also, an aside that I just remembered – I saw a piece of graffiti from the West Bank side of the separation wall that divides Israel and Palestine. It said “Freedom cannot be defended with chains”. Made me smile because of its opposition to your argument, which I guess you could sum up with the phrase “Freedom MUST BE defended with chains”!

  4. adam
    April 21, 2010

    Hello nhelmgrovas – I don’t think I’ve made my point clearly, i’m critical of this totalitarian approach to security and legislation and i’m sure that is actually eroding our freedom – hence the paradox.

    I tried to explain the paradox in a blog of mine – maybe you could read it for me, i’d appreciate your thoughts.

    http://adamhadem.wordpress.com/2010/04/18/the-freedom-paradox/

    Respect and Peace!
    @dam.

  5. adam
    April 21, 2010

    I thought my paradox theory explained the ironic position we find ourselves in with regards to our perceived freedom, now that I’ve explained myself, lol, maybe you can see where i am coming from. My theory is possibly reflecting how our governments perceive the challenges they face. A distinct lack of imagination and an heavy handed reliance on authority, to control us and keep us where they want us.

    Instead of developing a beautiful, and socially aware democratic state, they spend their time fire-fighting the latest crisis, with legislation. It’s like being at school (another totalitarian state), instead of dealing with the bad apples they punish the whole class!

    Maybe with your assistance, we could re-write the paradox, so that it actually came across as intended, ie with intended irony.

    I read the Panopticon wiki and it’s very interesting and there all parallels of this on our roads too. The thousands of speed cameras up and down the country, without any film in it, their very presence performs the desired task.

    Respect and Peace!
    @dam

  6. adam
    April 21, 2010

    I should clarify, that there are many more speed cameras, with film in or digital units, generating millions in revenue, which allow this panopticon situation to exist.
    RaP
    @dam

  7. nhelmgrovas
    May 4, 2010

    Yeah the speed camera is the perfect example of a panopticon. I think Foucalt mentions this somewhere but I’m ashamed to admit my knowledge of him is pretty much non-existent. Let me get back to you about the Freedom Paradox

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