Americans: Celebrate Our Freedom of Opinion and Expression this 4th of July


“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” – Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 19

In honor of Independence Day, here is a brilliant post and video from Kompaz, a Norwegian-based international exchange project dedicated to facilitating learning about issues related to peace, global justice and sustainability.

"A free and independent media, one that is not censored or controlled, is therefore a prerequisite for freedom of speech," it says. "It makes sure that the truth is accessible to the public, and gives a platform for people to express their opinions."

America stands for freedom and yet we do not have a media that is not censored or controlled--certainly not our mainstream media, which is owned by the same players who own many of our politicians as well as, in one case, our leading online retailer (Amazon) and, now, organic grocery store chain (Whole Foods). Not even Facebook is uncensored--far from it.

Not yet.

Let us "raise our voice as one, and though we deal but little strokes, in time we will fell great oaks. Who's with me now?"

Kompaz, the international exchange project funded by FK Norway that is dedicated to making educational content to facilitate learning about issues related to peace, global justice and sustainability, recently posted this video and corresponding post to remind us that everyone has the right to hold their own opinions and communicate them to the world.

"It is not just about opinions; it guarantees free flow of information, meaning that people have the right to seek out and spread information and facts, no matter how much the government, companies or individuals would like for that information to remain hidden. This communication can be through words, images, pictures and actions – including public demonstrations and protests."

The post goes on to say:

"A free and independent media, one that is not censored or controlled, is therefore a prerequisite for freedom of speech. It makes sure that the truth is accessible to the public, and gives a platform for people to express their opinions.

No matter its limitations or controversies, freedom of speech is one of the most important rights we have. A fair, free and equal nation depends of a free exchange of ideas, and freedom of speech allows a dynamic society where people are empowered to communicate new inventions and ideas for progress. To be free to speak up is also necessary to expose incompetence, corruption, and tyranny.

Journalists, artists, writers, musicians and human rights activists all around the world are still being persecuted, censored, threatened, harassed, or even killed. There are currently 269 journalists in jail worldwide, and 48 journalists were killed during 2016.

Sometimes, it is governments themselves that silence people, such in the case of Viet Khang, but sometimes it is groups, organizations or networks doing the silencing; one example is Bangladesh, where 48 bloggers, writers, and journalists were murdered by extremist groups between 2013 and 2016.

This is not something that happens in faraway countries where authoritarianism is the norm: the latest report from Index on Censorship states that many arrests and attacks on journalists occurred in Greece, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey. Even in France and Italy – countries that are considered safe, modern and free – there were a combined 197 incidents of threats or violence against journalists in 2016.

What can you do?

Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of a free and fair society, and yet it is an extremely vulnerable right that is increasingly being undermined and violated. So how can we protect it?

The most important thing is to take advantage of the right we have and speak up about such violations – to use our voices to speak for those whose voices are silenced.

There are many ways of doing this: we can raise awareness through social media, write to politicians, start or support campaigns or try to get the media to write about it.

A great source for inspiration is the Norwegian musician Moddi, who literally uses his voice to speak up about freedom of speech. He recorded a an entire album filled with songs that have been banned in their respective countries, making sure that those silenced songs are heard across the world. As a part of the project, he visited every one of the censored artists featured on his album, and their stories are available as a series of mini-documentaries on his website (www.unsongs.com).

This is a case in which an ordinary person makes an extraordinary act, using his resources and talent to speak up for those who have been silenced. Remember that no one are too small to make a change - use the power and the skills you have to speak for others."

The lyrics to "Where is My Vietnam?" which Moddi is giving voice to while its author is still under house arrest in Vietnam, (which is on his album of banned songs entitled, "Unsongs," referenced above) are below.

[Verse 1]

My Vietnam, I have known you for so long

Lately I've become aware of all your sorrow

People are hungry and afraid, while hundred miles away

Their leaders pig on pork chops and champagne

[Verse 2]

My Vietnam, there is rust upon your star

And your wealth is with those who are in power

They have betrayed your mountains and your rivers

They have all failed you and sold your land away

[Chorus]

Where are you now, my Vietnam?

Where are your daughters and sons?

You must wake up and raise your voice as one

And though we deal but little strokes, in time we will fell great oaks

Who's with me now?

Ask "Where is my, where's my Vietnam?"

[Verse 3]

My Vietnam, how many young and brave

Must sleep beneath the waves, must fall before the cannons?

On Paracel and Spratly's bloody shores our name will stand or fall

A thousand years of darkness still remain

[Verse 4]

Our own have invited China in

They are cowards and lackeys of Beijing

Where are the heirs to your mountains and your rivers?

They will be here when they hear your call to arms!

[Chorus]

So where are you now, my Vietnam?

Where are your daughters and sons?

You must wake up and raise your voice as one

And though we deal but little strokes, in time we will fell great oaks

Hold your fist high, together we'll fight for a new Vietnam

#Kompaz #Freedomofexpression #Censorship

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