Monte de las Banderas, Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba

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Carlos Ruiz Badilla on May 7, 2011

Estimado Hans: Estoy completamente de acuerdo con tu opinión sobre libertad de expresión. Es muy difícil saber quién tiene la razón o la verdad absoluta. Lamento que hayas sido insultado por la publicación de algunas fotos, puesto que a mi también me ha pasado esto al subir a Panoramio fotografías de las Islas Falklands (Malvinas). En lo que no estoy de acuerdo contigo es que uses Canon y no Nikon. Saludos.

Matt Fitt Photograph… on May 8, 2011

" reality freedom of expression is not unlimited. A lot of countries have laws against homophobic, racist or religious hate speech..."

The quantity of countries, whether large or small, does not validate the justice of their laws.

The issue, however, is how "hate speech" is defined. It must be far more than merely stating that "I hate [some group]." It must rise to the level of promoting violence against individuals and/or creating reasonable fear amongst members of that protected group. If the qualifying standard for "hate speech" is set much lower than this, then there is a real possibility that such restrictions will have a chilling effect upon legitimate dialog.

" a lot of countries it is outlawed to deny the Holocaust..."

And in others, it is outlawed to deny the existence of god (or of a particular god). I strongly disagree with all of these laws. In relation to the Holocaust, I certainly understand why those restrictive laws were put in place, but the solution to avoiding a repitition of such horrors is not restrictions upon speech and ideas. Avoiding such outbursts of collective insanity and violence is better assured by extending personal freedoms (including speech) and ensuring a reasonable quality of life for everyone.

Should we ban books which actively promote homophobia, racism, religious intolerance, rape, slavery, murder, genocide? You might think so. Yet, surely the first on such a list would have to be the Christian Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible. And the Muslim Koran is not much better. Please do not misunderstand, I am not arguing the merits of (any) religion. I merely point out that these rather popular books contain many examples of ideas and actions which are deeply offensive. Further, the books claim that these same ideas and actions are condoned -- even, commanded -- by the almighty creator of the universe, and that we should all follow and obey these commands. Does that qualify as "hate speech" or not?

As for the American Convention on Human Rights, I'm not sure why we've been discussing it. I'm in the US. You're in Belgium. Your photo was taken in Cuba. None of these countries have ratified the ACHR, nor are any of them likely to do so in the future. As such, it would seem equally relevant if, instead, we were to discuss the Banjul Charter of the African Union or some other wholly unrelated document.

"these limitations... are there to ensure freedom of speech doesn't become freedom to insult."

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you. It almost seems as though you're conflating "hate speech" with mere insults. If you believe that insults, per se, qualify as a form of "hate speech", then you and I have radically different conceptions of free speech, and by extension, of personal freedoms, in general. (Or, perhaps, a different understanding of what constitutes an "insult".) I'm sorry, but if you believe that the personal expression of mere insults should be proscribed and punished by the state, then you and I simply do not agree on this issue.

"My point is simply that the right to free expression is often abused to insult others"

From my perspective, free expression is "abused" when the expressive act is intended to limit, hinder, or abrogate the rights and freedoms of others. It is not abused, however, when my words happen to offend somebody. There are many hypersensitive and irrational people on this planet -- people who become offended, outraged, even violent, simply because someone else said that the irrational people's ideas were irrational. Such a reality is hardly a legitimate justification for the state to limit my right to speak, or theirs.

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties. ~John Milton, 1644

Draken on May 9, 2011

Matt Let me ask you something. If someone threatens you to kill you because of your opinions, ideas, etc. would you consider it: a) a crime b) an insult c) hate speech d) none of the above Well, that's what happened here!! In the name of freedom of speech we were menaced. If those users agenda was to use Panoramio to harass and threaten users who visited Cuba and posted photos... well, what would you do? Freedom of speech was abused here. You can't prosecute offenders here like in real life, Team had the power to close their account. It was not mere insults.

Matt Fitt Photograph… on May 9, 2011

Right, "threatening to kill someone" is not a mere insult, it easily qualifies as abuse and/or harassment. And, in some places, a crime.

As I said before, it is abusive when the expressive act is intended to limit the rights of others. A threat to kill someone is clearly intended to cause them fear and, presumably, to cause them to alter their behavior against their will -- thus, a hindrance to their freedom. (And obviously, to actually kill someone would be the ultimate abrogation of their freedom.)

CRIME: In California, where I'm located, such expressive action -- direct threats of violence -- may constitute "criminal threats," a felony punishable by up to three years in state prison.

HATE SPEECH: However, under many international legal definitions, these same threats would not qualify as "hate speech," unless it could be shown that Hans was part of a specifically protected class/group, and that he was targeted on that basis.

INSULT: I would not define such expressions as "insults." An insult is intended to belittle the target, to make them feel uncertain about their own abilities, to engender self-doubt, shame, guilt. An insult seeks to make the target look ridiculous, incompetent, corrupt. But it does not intend to cause fear of physical harm to self or others.

Hans Sterkendries on May 16, 2011

Matt, I'm sorry I was unable to react any sooner. I was in Crete and I since I'm used to an azerty keyboard I didn't want to type a long answer on the hotel computer.

Without going into this specific case I can only repeat what I said earlier on. There is a place and time for everything.

In my opinion political or religious discussions, and the resulting hate speech and insults have no place on this website that is dedicated to photography.

I always make the comparison to the real world. If you want to discuss the American policy on Iraq will yo write a letter to the editor of Newsweek or to the editor of Photography Weekly? It's that simple.

There is a famous case of a person that was convicted for gay bashing at a same-sex marriage. Of course you can freely disagree with same-sex marriages, and of course you can sincerely believe that being gay is a sin but the (American) judge thought it was inappropriate to expres that opinion there and then.

Carlos, my choice for Canon was influenced by my photography teacher but I never regretted it. Their full frame CMOS Sensors and their Image Processors are fast and reliable but what I like most: Canon has the fastest autofocus on the market. And sometimes it comes down to a split of a second...

Greetings from Belgium - Hans

Carlos Ruiz Badilla on May 17, 2011

Estimado Hans: parece que la discusión entre Nikon y Canon puede ser tan extensa como la que existe sobre la libertad de expresión. Pero tienes razón que siempre hay un lugar y tiempo para todo. Gracias por tus palabras. Saludos desde Santiago de Chile.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on January 6, 2007
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Hans Sterkendries
    • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL
    • Taken on 2006/12/17 21:52:01
    • Exposure: 0.002s (1/500)
    • Focal Length: 18.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/5.600
    • ISO Speed: ISO100
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash