Freedom of Speech? Absolutely – But First Do No Harm!

Recently I became the subject of highly fictional and defamatory comments relating mostly to my profession, published by an anonymous online blogger.

The reason I became the subject of such an attack was because I had publicly defended and declared my support for Serge Benhayon, Universal Medicine and my fellow students – themselves the subject of unwarranted attacks by the media, including numerous false accusations that Universal Medicine is a cult

As noted on our government’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship website, all Australians are entitled to five fundamental freedoms: of speech, association, assembly, religion, and movement. The first of these supports the notion that all individuals have the right to speak freely on any issue. There are, however, clear parameters for doing so. The following passage on freedom of speech, from the five freedoms web page, clarifies this distinction. Here is the first part:

‘Australians are free, within the bounds of the law, to say or write what we think privately or publicly, about the government, or about any topic. We do not censor the media and may criticise the government without fear of arrest.’

So far, so good. The rights of all bloggers to say or write what they think are clearly upheld in this definition; it’s what’s enabling me to comment here. But note the second part of the passage (bolding is mine):

‘Free speech comes from facts, not rumours, and the intention must be constructive, not to do harm. There are laws to protect a person’s good name and integrity against false information. There are laws against saying or writing things to incite hatred against others because of their culture, ethnicity or background. Freedom of speech is not an excuse to harm others.

The blogger/s who saw fit to attack me in an entirely false and defamatory fashion have clearly done harm. However, by hiding behind a cloak of anonymity, the person or persons responsible are free to evade prosecution.

We need to lobby our leaders and law-makers to take a stand against such activity by outlawing cyber-bullying immediately. If we can’t identify and pursue the abusers, we should at least be able to have harmful and defamatory material rapidly removed from the offending sites.

Meanwhile, I can only wonder at the nature of the individuals who express in such a way. By remaining nameless, they either demonstrate they lack the courage of their convictions or have a seasoned understanding of the law – or both.

By Victoria Lister, Brisbane, Australia

See also: David Millikan: Ignores Fundamental Rights of Religious Freedom in Australia

135 thoughts on “Freedom of Speech? Absolutely – But First Do No Harm!

  1. To remain anonymous is their own lack of commitment to been heard and seen as a true member of society. It’s the false sense of conviction and a somewhat short lived relief that then becomes an addiction knowing you can get away with it.

  2. As the media, politics and religious organisations are continually showing, they are but puppets for those who want to stay in control. So, as is portrayed in the latest Robin Hood movie produced by Otto Bathurst, we need to come together to make any changes, and even then we have to make sure all the old ways are exposed at every level for the greed and corruption that is obviously rife.

  3. I very much agree with you Victoria. It is very easy to demand our freedom of something but it always comes back to the quality we choose to do things in that is the qualifying and important factor.

  4. We are very clear on our rights to free speech, but less so as a society on the responsibility that comes with those rights. Not to do harm, not to incite, for we need to remember that words are powerful and have impact. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

  5. Considering how our laws are so open to reinterpretation depending on the case for either side and as abuse is abusive in so many levels maybe the legal system and humanity need to sharpen their pencils with an honesty sharpener.

  6. It is great to have freedom of speech, if you think about it, it actually gives permission for us to get a deeper understanding of everything. We are by law allowed to express our feelings and concerns. We can discuss topics and get to the bottom of societal issues, learn about other’s views and perhaps change our own. What a gift, hey! But to turn it into a hate-campaign to abuse a group of human beings is not that, it is the complete opposite of that and the intent the law of freedom of speech comes from.

    1. Could it be that the whole world is got so many things up-side-down or the opposite that they are convinced they simply follow what is so called natural? When the Truth is staring you in the face if you are numb and denatured by a way of living that keeps you in the dark then you only see the darkness.

  7. ‘Freedom of speech is not an excuse to harm others.’ Exactly and yet right now across the world freedom of speech is seen as an absolute right without any consideration of context or of the harm that it engenders to our public spaces … we cannot continue this way, it’s abuse and ultimately we will need to call out and stop abuse, including the abuse of freedom of speech.

  8. It is time the laws caught up with the universal mediums that can spread lies across the planet in seconds. This, or what we have now will never pass as freedom of speech, but we are given the right to abuse in many ways without a shred of decency and respect shown.

  9. Thank you Victoria firstly for speaking up to support Serge Benhayon and the students of Universal Medicine, and secondly for sharing the truth about Freedom of Speech. We definitely need laws that support people against anonymous defamatory attacks and cyber abuse in general.

  10. The second paragraph clearly outlines that you cannot say something about someone that will harm them which should be followed through. Those anonymous sources that are not anonymous anymore should with this second paragraph easily be put to account for what they do to others.

  11. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to abuse, yet we seem to allow and permit varying levels of abuse to be a standard way of interacting with one another. I agree that we need to arrest this loveless way a being, be held accountable for the harm intended and correct the wrong doing as is it does not in any way honour, respect or support us a humanity to freely live and learn from each other in order to evolve. Otherwise the foundation upon which we develop is seeded in abuse, corruption and total separation.

  12. We live in a world of free will. We all have the right to harm him/herself or not. Those who are very fluent in the art of harming themselves tend to be very fluent in the art of harming others as well. It is particularly infuriating for them when someone claims they do not want to belong to that club any longer.

  13. Amazing we are needing more and more laws and legislations in place to tell us how to be with each other. Internet is a great invention, but it seems that we are actually not evolved enough and very much left behind by this technological advancement and do not have the level of decency and integrity to utilise its merit.

  14. The desire to hurt or defame another is not a natural state of being. It is a perversion of who and what we are. Our nature is to unite, to live in harmony with one another – and so when such a desire manifests, it is a reflection of something that we have created ourselves, not something innate in us. Any person who seeks to anonymously abuse and defame another is revealing themselves as deeply hurt. Only when we learn to heal such hurts will such behaviour change.

    1. Beautifully and wisely said and exposed Richard. Living any degree less that love is abuse and ‘is a perversion of who and what we are.’ We are responsible for the quality in which we live and express, as we are responsible for the unhealed hurts we hold onto. As such we really cannot hide the vibration we are willingly aligning to. So, the more we deepen our relationship and understanding of what love really is, who we truly are, the more we can feel how any degree of lovelessness is intolerable, as it does not fit into our innate way of being.

  15. “Free speech comes from facts, not rumours, and the intention must be constructive, not to do harm.” Yes we have taken the word Free Speech as a right to say whatever we want regardless of whether it is true or factual While the laws need to change to keep up with the hate crime that is on the internet, we also need to change our stance on what is common decency towards another fellow human being.

  16. I feel that if someone hides behind anonymity to attack/bully others, they know that what they write is untrue, and web hosts should remove publications that are written anonymously in this way, because they too equally have a duty of care.

  17. “Freedom of speech is not an excuse to harm others.” – why would we even need an excuse to harm others. What is wrong with us that we would even consider harming ourselves or any others?

  18. What we do online as apposed to what goes on offline can be poles apart. It’s not that the behaviours are necessarily different it’s just the way we police them and the way the law sees them are different. There is a part for us all to play in how we conduct and view the online landscape. This will support to bring forward laws that have us responsible for what we do on what is a very very public space. We all need to play a part and some of us that can see our part will need to keep actioning it to support us all. It’s very much a watch this space because this is a problem that is only just being seen partly for what it is.

  19. This has all got to change . . . you are so right about this Victoria and it will be us who instigate the change for we are speaking up in numbers saying how it really is . . . and we will not be silenced by some gutless nameless bullies.

  20. When we consider the idea of freedom of speech it is always related to the people as members of a wider community. Hence, we associate with the public sphere. Yet, the problem is that when people speak they bring to the public sphere what they are living in their private one. People speak from their bodies and how they speak and what they say is a mere reflection of how settled or not they feel in their own bodies. It is pretty clear that trolls are people who suffer from a profound unsettlement. When you are settled and feel comfortable in your own body, there are things you would not say. They will not come to you. Yet, if you feel unsettled your body will be able to say things that a settled-in body would not. It is exactly the same as what happens in schools. When people are connected to themselves and settled in their bodies, there are things they would not do (e.g., bullying others, disturbing the classmates, etc)… Yet, if this is not the case, we know as a fact that we can expect whatever from them. They cannot contain the malaise they feel into their own bodies. So, they ‘generously’ share it with the class. Same same.

    1. Very true Eduardo, it seems it is easier to throw mud that to extract oneself from it. While ever we are separated from the connection with ourselves we will never know what harmlessness is in truth.

  21. The abuse of people by on line bloggers is rampant and it seems no change to these unlawful acts has as yet happened as the Government, the laws of the land, need updating to address this situation. Free speech is to do no harm first and foremost not to lie about and degrade another person.

  22. “Freedom of speech is not an excuse to harm others” Universal Medicine presents that the energy of malicious thoughts is harmful to the harmony of the world we all live in, so defamatory lies and abuse on the Internet or anywhere and the emotion of reactions are harmful to us all.

  23. Solid article, I am all for the laws on cyber abuse changing, as they currently do not reflect the modern age we live in. Peoples shop fronts are no longer only on the street. Shoppers and the general public are now informed by what they read on the internet and they rely on this before making decisions. If they like what they see online, then maybe they will visit the place or shop in person. As a society if we allow abuse online to take place without cause or effect, what kind on environment will our kids grow up in? We need to lay the ground work now, so hopefully we can make the internet is a safer place for our children. Universal Medicine aside, we are talking about peoples lives, people’s businesses and they are at stake.

  24. Until we all learn to speak to others with Love, care, wisdom and support, always, there will be bullying in all it’s forms, as the most fundamental basic of human interaction, to do no harm, is not honoured until this is the only focus.

  25. Too often it is a lone voice saying no that stirs the comfort and slumber of others, and that means there is a push back and abuse hurled in their direction, but it still needs to be said.

  26. It is with a great level of humility that I have stopped behaviors that were causing harm to others. It is not easy to own my mistakes, but when I do coming out the other side I always feel lighter and more loving and aware of how I choose to behave in life, which allows me to make some very big changes. So the question I ask is does our government have the ability to look closely at what has been allowed on our internet, and humbly accept that they have dropped the ball in relation to protecting the natural, lawful rights of the citizens that elect it.

  27. There is no hiding in the world of energy and as such anonymity is simply a beacon that alerts others to the fact that such a person is refusing to take responsibility for the quality of that which they express and so they seek to hide where they cannot be hidden and thus become not only a menace to society but also incredibly imprisoned in a mind-set that has them thinking that their actions cannot be seen and deep in the illusion that they can somehow be ‘getting away with it all’. Our laws may not yet have caught up with dealing with such tyrants but we are all bound by Universal Law that ensures we can never escape the very much needed corrections that are put in place to bring us back to the love that we are.

  28. Well said Victoria. We live in a day and age where defamatory comments can spread like viruses to all reaches of the globe. It has never been more important to have enforceable laws in place to identify anonymous bullies and hold them to account for their actions.

  29. I only can absolutely agree Victoria and love your clear words against cyberbullying. Each of us has to say NO to it otherwise this abuse will have more victims including people who will commit suicide.

  30. If there are ‘laws to protect a person’s good name and integrity against false information’ and ‘there are laws against saying or writing things to incite hatred against others because of their culture, ethnicity or background’ are they being enforced by our governing bodies with the necessary integrity and respect for those they were developed to honour by reprimanding or punishing those that breach these laws? Or, are they just lip service?

  31. I agree Victoria this needs to be reminded to all concerned and backed with the correct enforcement. Many people are being extremely harmed and some committing suicide. It is harsh world we have created. It’s best we all are a part of change and not leave it to another.

  32. I very much love that we have such a clear statement of integrity underpinning our expression on the internet. What I find abominable is that it is not honoured and upheld.

    1. I agree Leigh. The integrity this statement speaks of needs to be upheld by each and every one of us.

  33. Freedom of speech is not just about us speaking but about the consideration of what we say and how it impacts the all, in other words, we must do no harm. And we have this well taken care of offline but not so online, as it appears that people who would not dare say anything to someone to their face will often do so online anonymously, without consideration or maybe even deliberately. We really need to understand there is no difference between offline and online and act accordingly.

  34. Well said Victoria. I have seen recently really decent people say the most awful things about someone they essentially don’t know because of their religious beliefs. This is not freedom of speech at all. It is clear and utter abuse and supremacy as well. This highlights to me how important it is that we express out truth, without abusing anyone in any way and without reacting to the often very unkind comments that can get hurled. We are heading down a slippery slope that we have seen in our most recent pasts and knowing who we are and standing true in that is our greatest ally.

  35. I feel that there are so many laws that are needing to be updated in light of the era of technology that we are in today, where there are so many instances of faceless and nameless individuals taking advantage of their anonymity to abuse others, as you have personally experienced Victoria. And as you say so wisely “Freedom of speech is not an excuse to harm others.”, so there must be consequences for the despicable actions that this small section of humanity are choosing to take.

  36. Until we get to the heart of the matter and realise that underneath the abusive words are deeply hurt people, we will inevitably still encounter abuse. What we express and how we express is very revealing of the relationship we have with ourselves. Rules and laws are very necessary – but healing our hurts is what will truly change how we relate to each other.

  37. ‘There are laws to protect a person’s good name and integrity against false information. There are laws against saying or writing things to incite hatred against others because of their culture, ethnicity or background. Freedom of speech is not an excuse to harm others.’ It’s well and good to have words like this in our laws but are these laws been truly enforced in this modern day age or are they just as empty as some of the defamatory comments too many are presently getting away with making on the worldwide web.

  38. When fundamental freedoms are not treasured and protected as they deserve to be, you invite fundamentalism to step in. This enormous irresponsibility lies mainly on state authorities.

  39. When the constitutional spirit is not honoured by the authorities, its real value is zero. Such a thing only encourages encroaching/abusive behaviours.

  40. Using freedom of speech in a way that is contrary to what is so clearly written in the five freedoms web page is utter abuse. Hiding behind anonymity to do so is a clear reflection of the dishonesty and cowardice of who did it. Adding all up, it is clear that the value of each and every word written in that spirit is null.

  41. It’s interesting that whilst there are laws in place to curb online behaviour, since the onset of cyber bullying there have only been 2 convictions, showing that the laws need to be made more specific and their enforcement seriously needs to be addressed…. not doing so is allowing much harm to be spread without recourse and worse, it is so prolific that it is considered somewhat normal or expected.

  42. Really interesting to read what you have shared Victoria as I can see not only does this level of abuse and bullying occur online but frequently in workplaces all under the guise of freedom of speech. I feel many do not truly consider the impact of what they say, print or publish online about others but what you share as is written on the five freedoms web page is powerful ‘Free speech comes from facts, not rumours, and the intention must be constructive, not to do harm. ‘ This statement may well have more impact on actions if, as you share, it were more greatly supported by government in the form of laws that could be enacted to remove such untruths. I feel the more we each speak out against such occurrences of bullying wherever we see them the more likely the chance there will be of such acts being created. I for one am ready to stand up for truth.

  43. Hiding behind the cloak of anonymity for the sake of being able to spread defamatory and harmful words demonstrates the anonymous writers true intention to mislead the public and is an obvious abuse of what freedom of speech stands for. I agree it is time the law stepped in and took a stand to prevent such activity by outlawing cyber-bullying.

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