Ethics of Limitless Freedom of Speech

Cassie Follman '16, opinion editor

Freedom of speech has always been seen as an ultimate right of people. Often understanding how far this extends has been a topic of dispute. While some arguments state that freedom of speech and expression should be unlimited, others propose that there should be restrictions. Opposing sides can hardly ever seem to meet an agreement, and although both of them each have valid points, I cannot completely agree with one or the other.

The Charlie Hebdo tragedy was awful. Such actions are indisputably horrible, and cases against them cannot be argued. However, one must also question whether the magazine should have been more considerate. Although it is important for people to express their views and have the freedom to do so, people must understand that a certain amount of respect is commanded with personal opinions and beliefs.

As a writer for the newspaper, and an avid believer that everyone should have the right to their own opinion, I think that it is incredibly important for people to have the freedom to express themselves. In correlation to my writing for The Peddie News and in everyday life, it is also vital for me to consider how my writing and expression affects other people. I am in no way accepting the reaction from extremists in the Charlie Hebdo situation; however, to ignore the fact that the material released must be treated with the utmost scrutiny before publishing is to choose to disregard one of the most crucial aspects of publishing or producing any kind of work.

Throughout the reporting of the case, many news sites refused to publish the images that depicted Muhammad in a disrespectful manner. While I firmly believe that religion or other personal opinions deserve a higher respect than integrity of work, I question the ethics of publishing the cartoons and whether or not there is a line that should not be crossed when it comes to media.

Another concerning aspect is the response following the terrible event in which twelve employees were killed and eleven others were injured. The magazine chose to have yet another image of Muhammad on their cover, and the Je Suis Charlie movement was also sparked. I am concerned that those in charge of the content did not consider the fact that what they chose to publish resulted in the deaths of their employees. I don’t believe that the magazine is in any way at fault, nor do I believe that media and news (even satire) should be censored out of fear.

If progress is ever going to be made concerning this debate, there has to be more open discussion and reflection on what constitutes as right when it comes to press and media.