In her essay, The Controversy Entrepreneurs, human rights lawyer Pearl Eliadis slaps around the previously mentioned hysterical twosome, and explores seven commonly held misconceptions when it comes to free speech and human rights:
1. FREE SPEECH IS AN ABSOLUTE RIGHT.
FALSE. Free speech is one of our most cherished values, but it carries special responsibilities—including legal responsibilities. Years of case law have established over and over again that speech has its limits. Treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantee speech, but they also limit speech that harms the rights or reputations of others. Canada acceded to the ICCPR in 1976. More than 150 other countries have also signed on.
Libel law was partly responsible for cleaning up the profession of journalism by removing character-assassinating screeds written by irresponsible hacks. Journalism’s post-war reputation for trustworthiness has been built upon respect for balance and the very limits that Steyn and others now say do not exist. Generations of writers and editors who publish responsibly should beg to differ. The challenge is ensuring the media understand that human rights are part of the legal environment in which they operate. Libel is not the only lawful limit on speech.
Shocking, I know! But, how's that for making you want to read on?