Two stories this weekend have peaked my interest – saddam not withstanding. They both revolve around the concept of ‘free expression’. Each story offers a contrasting viewpoint of how best to protect and promote freedom of expression.
In Venezuela, Chavez claims the role of sole arbiter of what constitutes a threat to national dignity and independence:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said he will not renew the licence for the country’s second largest TV channel which he says expires in March 2007.
In an address to troops, Mr Chavez said he would not tolerate media outlets working towards a coup against him.
Radio Caracas Television, which is aligned with the opposition, supported a strike against Mr Chavez in 2003. “There will be no new operating licence for this coupist TV channel called RCTV. The operating licence is over… So go and turn off the equipment,” Mr Chavez said.
Mr Chavez said the channel was “at the service of coups against the people, against the nation, against national independence, against the dignity of the republic”.
In Iraq, members of the US Airborne division have worked together with local Iraqi’s to build a radio station where once there was none. The Mayor of Balad Ruiz notes that “This is a free station, the people can say what they want, and they can speak freely.” No mention of was made of shutting down any news outlet to better protect the citizens.
BALAD RUIZ, Iraq -In a city where there is no means for releasing information to its people, coalition forces have developed a project to give the people a chance at free speech.The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Al Noor radio station, also known as the The Light, located here, opened its doors to many with high hopes and happy faces from the Iraqi Army and police department as well as city officials of Balad Ruz and members of the 5-73 Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. “This is a great day for Balad Ruiz and its people,” said Mayor Mohammed Maroof Al-Hussein, city mayor. “I think this is a new stage for our city and a new way to serve our people.”This is a free station,” he continued. “The people can say what they want, they can speak freely.”
“This is a pro-government radio station that counters what terrorists are saying,” said Pratt. “It also lets the people know what the coalition forces are doing in their area to help them.
I find these two articles to be a great litmus test for an individuals political leanings concerning free speech.
Those who support the Chavez-Sheehan power coupling would find no fault in Chavez’s actions.
Others to the right of this power couple applaud the tenacity and hard work that the good guys are doing in Iraq in the name of democracy.
Where do you stand?