We all know the limits of free speech around the world. I would not recommend that Portuguese people go to Canada, because it is easy to mix up her and his (her looks more like he, all my cousins mix up their pronouns when they learn English). Another country that claims freedom of speech is Singapore, where any criticism of politicians is called libel, so newspapers basically cannot criticise. And I remember when someone defending an attack by a UK billionaire, and he sued them by saying they were calling him a liar.
We all know that Russia’s constitution protects freedom of speech. So does the constitution of Iran. (Of course, the Iranian constitution gives exceptions, but that is just keeping up with the times).
All of that at least requires a court case. A recent case in Romania shocked me not because freedom of speech was limited, but because an ombudsman who decided to fine a TV station for one hundred thousand lei for expressing an opinion.
Okay, officially, the opinion is libel against a dead reporter from a competing news outlet. I can understand why family and friends of the deceased journalist would be upset. Your friend just died, and suddenly someone says things about your friend that do not sound very nice. In most social circles, this is considered poor behaviour.
Libertatea has published their viewpoint, that Romania TV attacked not only their news outlet, but that their reporter has rights even after death. They also published a long story after the death of their reporter, which was a full page eulogy that praised their deceased colleague..
But let us look at the point of view of the Romania TV. Libertatea has had the sense to publish Romania TV’s comments in their paper, to let the readers decide who is right. (Of course, it is padded with Libertatea’s point of view, but anyone else would probably do the same).
Basically, a journalist at Romania TV said that the reporter was mentally ill and therefore unfit to work in such a profession. There is also an implication that she was worked to her death, that her employer had no regard for her condition.
The reporter for Romania TV also said that he would not hire someone with mental illness. (His choice of language might be slightly less than politically correct, but I am not sure I would call it an insult or attack on those with mental illness).
Now, I have met people who do not have a driver’s license because they have problems with their sight, or they have epilepsy, or other conditions which would make driving a danger to themselves and others. I personally do not drive because I made so little progress in driving lessons. I am not diagnosed with any condition, but other family members have gone without driver’s licenses so maybe there is something that hasn’t been discovered yet.
It would make sense that any disability limits what an individual can do. Sure, there are wheelchairs, computers, eyeglasses, maybe even medications that can help, but there is also the well being of the person with the disability and of others to consider.
I would not hire a deaf person to monitor sound at a movie theatre (sometimes I think that a few of the people who work in the projection rooms of the cinemas in Cluj are hard of hearing, perhaps they have been to too many heavy metal concerts or perhaps they are losing their hearing with age. I would rather hear the person next to me chew their popcorn than have the movie be so loud that it gets distorted and hurts my ears. No, this rant is not over). But I would have no problem with a completely deaf person making movie posters or working in any field where good hearing is not a requirement.
Of course, my interpretation of the events is different from those of the journalist on Romania TV. When I first read the obituary of the deceased journalist in Libertatea, I suspected foul play. She had investigated criminals and human rights abusers during her time as a journalist, I would not be surprised if someone felt rubbed the wrong way and hired someone to make it look like an accident.
But maybe that is because I cannot really relate to her emotional state of mind, or her disability.
In any case, I better stop there before I get fined. I just think that perhaps there should be at least a trial, instead of giving so much power to an ombudsman to limit free speech.
About the author: Des Sousa is the writer of The Slimebag Project and other plays. More of his work can be found at udigrudi.com