Attempts to Kill Freedom of Speech Ultimately Doomed to Failure

By John E. Carey


China and Vietnam are among the nations that restrict the internet and email to "approved" topics, words and discussion. People in both countries always assume, and usually correctly, that "Big Brother" is watching.

India, in an effort to stop the communications of subversives following terror bombings in July 2006, also took steps to implement internet and email restrictions.

Is India going the way of China and Vietnam? What is becoming of the Great Indian Democracy?

When India announced even temporary restrictions in internet blogs, the Indian Government took a stand against Freedom of Speech. So the story is about one of the rights we Americans hold dear, and sometimes take for granted.

Internet sites and computers pose a two edged sword, Communist nations have found. If a government fosters internet communications widely people will communicate. Before long, if you aren't careful, people will think and communicate at the same time.

In Vietnam, starting in the 2006-2007 school year, all high schools must provide accredited and extensive IT education to all students. Each high school must also be equipped with a computer center with at least 25 computers connected to the Internet. These reforms are dictated by the Communist Party's Ministry of Education and Training.

But the Vietnamese leaders, like the Communists in China, want to control the internet, monitor usage by individuals , and limit access to many western sites. Prohibited search words include "democracy," "freedom," and "declaration of independence." Many sites Americans take for granted are prohibited in Vietnam and China: like my own Washington Times (most articles much of the time).

Email is monitored in both China and Vietnam. Users caught writing "subversive" material or communicating too much with western friends find the police at the door.

It seems a pretty good rule of thumb that where information and access to information is limited and controlled by the government: the government is almost always up to something bad. We'll call this the "Peace and Freedom Freedom of Speech Rule of Thumb."

Vietnam and China are perfect examples of our Freedom of Speech Rule of Thumb: no freedom of speech, no freedom of the press, no opposition party or independent government sector, no writs of habeas corpus, no search warrants authorized by an independent judiciary, no "Miranda rights," and no probable cause. Add a tireless attempt to limit and control what the people can know and you have yourself a witches brew rife with human rights violations.

It is a very sad commentary that India feels that it is appropriate and useful to limit "blogs," no matter what their content.

It is an even sadder commentary that U.S. companies including Google and Microsoft, eager to get into the huge Asian market including more than 123 Million Chinese users, acquiesced to the Chinese restrictions on internet and email use that the Chinese demanded.

I know these corporations have an obligation to their shareholders. I know the Chinese market is too big to totally cede to others. I know the arguments...but....

If we Americans are so eager for cash that we easily cast aside our most basic freedoms, the freedoms our forefathers fought to maintain during many wars, maybe we need to rethink our principles.

Just google "Google" and "Microsoft" and check their quarterly profits: they are staggering. And both these companies and their leaders, especially Bill Gates, are justifiably proud of all the good they do in the world. But in the case of freedom of speech in Asia, and now apparently India, both corporations and their leaders have failed to take a stand that protects the rights of their fellow men.

We are pleased to join Amnesty International in speaking out for Freedom of Speech.

Stifling freedom of speech will almost always fail. Men of principle cannot be silenced. They only keep quiet while the evil ones are watching. Or they seem to.

And in the year 2006, those stifled find a way to blog, text message and all the rest. And that's a good thing.


*John E. Carey: Journalist, historian and scholar John E. Carey retired from the United States Navy after Command at Sea, duty on several ships, and numerous tours of duty in the Pentagon including in President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI). He was the Chairman of NATO's Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development and a technical advisor to the Bilateral Strategic Talks with Russia. Mr. Carey has lived in China and other overseas locations. He has a Masters Degree (with Honors) in International Relations. Mr. Carey is active in Human Rights activities and has written extensively about human rights issues with his wife, Honglien. Founder and former President of International Defence Consultants, Inc., Carey works for U.S. national security objectives, military operations and homeland defence.


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