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The power of free speech

Written By vibykhmer on Friday, August 28, 2009 | 6:56 AM

August 28, 2009
Raymund Johansen sounds off in the Phnom Penh Post about the recent silencing of government critics, specifically, the case of Kem Sopheak.

Of course, the problem with preventing free speech, no matter how politically objectionable it may be to those with the power to prevent it, is that by doing so the ideas expressed are inadvertently but inevitably given a level of credibility and reasonableness they may not otherwise have garnered. After all, it is reasonable to assume that if powerful persons are afraid of the mere expression of an idea, then that idea must have a grain of truth. The assumption may be incorrect, but it will nevertheless be made.

On the other hand, the great benefit of a society where ideas can be freely expressed without fear of retaliation from the powers that be is that they may then be subjected to the objective scrutiny of the average reasonable citizen and countered with opposing reasonable arguments. Thus, truly ridiculous notions and accusations will be exposed for what they are in the arena of open, public discourse, rather than being repeated in whispers year after year, their merit never tested.

It would behoove the government to learn this lesson sooner rather than later.

Posted by DAS


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