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The Freedom of Speech and it's Relatives

Táncsics’s Prison Turned into the House of Freedom of Speech - Comments

After an hiatus of six decades, the building where Hungary’s legendary historic figure, Mihály Táncsics, was once imprisoned, has at last been returned to state ownership. What could be a more appropriate way of reinstating the building as part of Hungarian history than to dedicate it to freedom of speech, the ideal that led to one of the central demands of the 1848 Revolution, thus turning it into a shrine to this fundamental democratic value and its offshoots: the rights and freedoms related to information.

The proposal prepared by OSA, which has now been put up for public debate, recommends that the house, which can accommodate a large audience, be used as a museum as well as a forum for debate: an arena for cultural events and educational programs, and also a shrine to history and a place where current issues can be discussed. The institute would have the following key areas of interest:

  1. Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Expression.
    In a free country citizens should have the right to decide for themselves in matters of conscience and belief and to propagate their views on these issues.
  2. The History and Interpretations of Freedom of Speech.
    The content and the limitations of this concept have always been subject to debate: rather than simply taking it for granted, we must protect, exercise and develop this freedom.
  3. Censorship.
    Dictatorial states have always made efforts to control platforms of free speech, intimidating its proponents and limiting the freedom of the press.
  4. Propaganda.
    States, dictatorial and democratic alike, continuously make attempts to influence their citizens, to put a spin on controversial issues and to make their own record and performance look better.
  5. Samizdat as an Instrument to Fight Censorship and Government Propaganda.
    Publications banned by governments but nevertheless circulated by opposition groups can help break the state’s monopoly on information and can also aid citizens in voicing informed opinions.
  6. People’s Right to Public Information: Freedom of Information.
    The activities of the public sphere are financed from the taxpayers’ money, its institutions are run by the elected representatives of the voters – we have the right to monitor and control their activities.
  7. Secret and Secrecy.
    In some cases the justification for designating materials as state, professional or private secrets, which can limit access and distribution of news and information, is of questionable validity.
  8. Protection of Privacy and Informational Self-determination.
    With regard to individual liberties, one of the fundamental requirements is to guarantee individuals’ right to control information about themselves. This limits other people’s right to gather and distribute information about them.
  9. Hate Speech as a Limitation of Freedom of Speech.
    Freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to degrade the human dignity of others or to incite hatred against individuals and groups of people.
  10. The Relationship between Access to Intellectual Property and Copyright Protection.
    The rights traditionally granted to authors, publishers and distributors also served the interest of the public. However, the new realities of the modern world require new solutions.
  11. The Relationship between Freedom and Security.
    In today’s world we can maintain our hard-earned freedoms only within the framework of a safe society, but the creation of security may require the curbing of these freedoms. It is our responsibility to find the optimal balance.
  12. Freedom of Speech in the Age of the Internet.
    Modern technologies have brought fundamental changes to the realization of information rights and freedoms. On the one hand these technologies make it easier to realize our freedom of speech, while on the other hand they make it more difficult to implement the justifiable limitations.
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