Society

150 public figures warn over free speech

freedom of speech

More than 150 world-famous authors, publicists, academics, journalists and public figures have signed an open letter “On Justice and Open Debate.”

In this appeal, the signatories applaud a recent “needed reckoning” on social and racial justice, aimed at the equity achievement in all spheres of life. Meanwhile, the letter highlights that several moral principles established under today’s realities are stifling the possibility of an open discussion in favour of ideological unanimity around the world more and more. “The toxic atmosphere for artistic self-expression and healthy discussion” was created in the society.

“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we get used to expecting this from right-wing radicals, censorship gets more comprehensive in our culture: intolerance of opposing views, a trend for public shaming and ostracism, and a tendency to dissolve complex political issues in a blind moral certainty,” the letter suggests.

The signatories emphasize that the boundaries of what is allowed in the public expression field are narrowing. That applies to creativity, journalism and education. The authors now fear retributions if they depart from the consensus or lack sufficient zeal in agreement with society.

Among those who signed the letter were political scientist Francis Fukuyama; journalist and writer Anne Applebaum; Russian opposition activist and former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov; journalist Farid Zakaria; and authors JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie, and Gloria Steinem.

The letter provoked huge debates in the intellectual environment of the West. The appeal is already actively criticised for shifting and overreacting. So, some activists have withdrawn their signatures.

Recently one of the letter’s signatories, Harry Potter author JK Rowling, was fiercely criticised for her comments on Twitter about transgender people for which she was claimed to be a transgender hater.

Bohdan Marusyak

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