What freedom of expression is all about

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Freedom of expression is one thing. Abusing people and making unfounded allegations under the guise of freedom of expression, especially when the writer is a faceless ghost, is something else. 

Folks, let’s not confuse the two. They are worlds apart and they must never be muddled together. 

Whereas freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, which allows people to speak their mind freely and access information so they can hold the powers that be to account, the latter is damaging and must never be tolerated. 

We say this because it destroys innocent people, families, communities, countries and eventually makes a mockery of the very freedom our forebears shed their blood and tears over so we can live and enjoy such fantastic freedom today.

Speaking of which, Samoa paused for a moment yesterday to honour ANZAC Day. Once a public holiday on these shores, the commemoration of ANZAC is yet another reminder about the sacrifice and the price our forebears paid for our freedom – including the very freedom to opinion and beliefs. 

These are critical components in our democracy. Without free speech and a right to believe, democracy will wither and die. It’s that simple.

But freedom comes with boundaries and responsibility. 

In other words, freedom can never be absolute. It must always be governed by rules and laws which protect and guard people who are vulnerable to being hurt and abused by that very freedom.

Sad to say, some of what we have witnessed online in Samoa today is nothing but malicious and extremely vengeful. 

The manhunt for a certain online blogger is well known. 

From our standpoint, it’s an eye opener in terms of just how little we know about the power of the internet. 

The irony is that here we have a government espousing the need to have faster internet connection with multiple benefits, and yet on the other hand it is slowly finding out just how much of a monster it is unleashing into the lives of our people. 

Mark my words; this is only the beginning. Online abuse through similar blogs is only going to get considerably worse as more and more people learn how.

While the internet is a wonderful tool, it is just as deadly and venomous as most other useful tools we have when it is misused. A vehicle for instance is god-send tool when it is used correctly. But it is a lethal weapon in the hands of a wrong person. The Internet and the freedom it affords people is no exception. Welcome to the age on online media. 

Now getting back to freedom expression and the traditional media, the basic guide to free speech is that if you have an opinion – especially one where you are accusing someone else – you should be brave enough to put your face there and your name. 

That’s what responsible people do. And this is what this newspaper encourages. 

In fact it is what we do through the editorial section of your newspaper every day of the week. We know some people agree with us, some don’t agree and some people will absolutely hate us for it. But that is the beauty of freedom of different views and opinions. It allows us to agree to disagree. 

Looking at the world today and its problems, there is no one size fit all kind of solution. There are different solutions depending on who, where and the circumstances. 

The same goes for the court of public opinion. It’s the variety and the quality of different opinions that enriches and enhances lives. It allows us to grow as people, a nation and it helps us become better at whatever we do.

Think about it this way. By expressing your constructive opinion, you are contributing to your country’s gradual development. Believe it or not, your views help shape that development because they are widely read by the people who matter. They are read by people on the streets, people in different offices and even the most powerful in the land.

Keep in mind that developments begin with an idea. That’s how freedom was conceived in the first place; it began with a single idea by people yearning to be free.

Today, we want to say your opinions help preserve that freedom. Your opinions help strengthen democracy. Your views are the lifeblood of free Samoa. 

It goes without saying that the Samoa Observer Newspaper Group assure the Samoan public that letters to the editor, opinions are welcomed and encouraged. Readers’ views are subjected to the usual editing process. Letters found unsuitable for public consumption will be heavily edited and there will be letters that cannot be published. Although pseudonyms are accepted, we emphasise that real full names, addresses and telephones are also needed. All information is treated with strict confidence.  

And lastly, if you feel really strongly about an issue, we encourage you to put your name to your opinion or letter. You might be hated, criticised and get the odd glance from here and there but if you stand for the truth, in the end when what you say comes to pass, they will respect you. Trust me, we know. That’s what freedom of expression is all about.

But then that’s what we think anyway. What about you?

Write and share your thoughts with us! 

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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