Today we had a public debate on the motion “Individual freedom to speak about state’s financial system should not be limited or clause 1941 of the Latvian Criminal Code should be crossed out”.
The speakers for the motion were Juris Kaža (prominent journalist and liberalist) and Mārtiņš Mits (acting prorector of Riga Graduate School of Law and prominent human rights expert). The speakers against the motion were Zane Siliņa and Dmitrijs Starikovs (both SSE Riga LMT Debate Society’s members and SSE Riga students). Unfortunately, many of people who were invited to speak against the motion refused due to serious reason of no time.
The debate, questions given as well as following discussion was very interesting and productive. If at the beginning almost half of audience (18 out of 42) were willing to keep the mentioned clause of the Criminal Code, then after the debate all but one of them were willing to at least change the clause (narrow it and make it more specific)!
The most exciting ideas for the motion were:
-) in general freedom of speech cannot be limited – one should get as many opinions as possible to find/choose the best one. Say, in USA even laws against the hate speech are abolished by Supreme Court;
-) the Clause itself is to wide and it is hard to use it as one can apply it to almost anything or nothing (depending on how you look at it);
-) the implementation of the Clause is left to the police forces (the Security Police in this case) that are not really smart in doing so (or too politically driven).
The arguments raised against the motion included:
-) freedom of speech can be limited if it endangers other freedoms i.e. one of economic stability. One has to have a tool with which to prosecute people who use their speech for causing disorder or self-benefit;
-) people like academics and politicians have greater responsibility towards other people, hence they have to be more careful with their statements. Moreover, regular people tend to believe such authorities.
I think this was a good first step to next public debates. I would argue that we have to set the next date and motion as soon as possible.