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The University of Gothenburg at the Book Fair: A figure of freedom of speech

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What happens with the freedom of speech when museums don’t dare to show certain pieces of art or when bloggers receives threats via email? This was discussed at an open seminar at the Göteborg Book Fair.

- The freedom of speech for artists around the world is under threat, which also is an effect of the fact that images nowadays are distributed much faster around the world, says Ingrid Elam, Dean at the Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts. The biggest problem though, is the self-censorship that’s spreading. Some expressions of art could be dangerous, which the attack on Charlie Hebdo shows. But the art world is also affected, when museums don’t dare to show certain pieces of art or when critical voices silences.

But on the other hand, religious groups feels that the public debate has become much harder, says Göran Larsson, Professor of Religious Studies.
-The starting-point in the western world is that we are secularised and that what we eat or how we dress doesn’t have anything to do with religion. At the same time I think we are pretty blind to the religious expression that are a part of our society today. Another problem is that Gothenburg, for instance, is a segregated city and that a large part of the population doesn’t read traditional media and can therefore live in a world of their own.

The freedom of speech is about the right of the individual towards state and authorities

Helge Rønning, from the University of Oslo, pointed out that the freedom of speech is about the right of the individual towards state and authorities, not a personal right to say whatever to whomever.
- The line between private and public is harder to draw in social media. But you have to make a difference between ethical problems and legal problems. Unethical doesn’t have to mean illegal.

Ingrid Elam agreed to that statement.
- Charlie Hebdo has for example published drawings of the dead little Syrian boy Alan. On the one hand, I don’t think that the drawings should be banned. On the other hand, I would like to claim my right to very much dislike the drawings.