Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Russians understand freedom of speech as freedom to say anything
Well-known journalist and TV host Vladimir Pozner said in an interview that it was "disgraceful," when the venue for the briefing of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton in Kiev was hidden from Russian reporters last week. "What is your attitude to what happened in Kiev? Russian journalists were not only allowed to the briefing, but their colleagues from other countries were told not to share any information about the topics and the place of the press conference with them." "I think it was a disgraceful and totally unacceptable attitude towards journalists." "Do you know any incidents, when foreign journalists were not allowed to press conferences of senior Russian officials?" "No, I do not know any." "Is there a difference in understanding of freedom of speech in Russia and in the West?" "There is a difference, definitely. In Russia, they understand freedom of speech as a right to say whatever they want. Freedom is generally understood as freedom. "In the West, freedom of speech necessarily involves responsibility. At the end of the 1920s, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, said that people do not have a right to scream "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater just because they want to. Is this a restriction of freedom of speech, the judge asked? Yes, he replied, and this restriction is called responsibility. "In Russia, understanding of freedom of speech is completely different. As to freedom in general, the Russian understanding of freedom can be described with a saying "I do what I want." In the West, it is different, namely, the freest person is the most responsible one. This means that freedom stipulates not only "I do what I want to do", but also "I do what has to be done." "The most irresponsible person is a person, who is anything but free, a slave, who has no responsibility at all, for whom the owner is responsible."