Juris Ulmanis: Freedom of speech within limits of respect (299)
The mountain climber, lecturer of Faculty of Communication of Turiba University Dr. Juris Ulmanis in his lectures with students discusses different actual themes – freedom of speech and freedom of press, media impact on public opinion, as well as ability of an individual to analyse the perceived information. The recent events in Latvia and in the world once more warn us, how important these issues are.
„On everyday basis I mostly work with students from Eastern region countries and their opinion is particularly characterized with a fact that there is a strong propaganda and people believe what they see, hear and read. We often discuss this question in lectures, students are aware of the fact that there is a lack of freedom of speech in their countries, offered information is being censored, and public opinion has been influenced. To my mind, Latvian people also believe what they read and, frankly speaking, I don’t understand why there is such a situation,” tells J.Ulmanis.
Lecturer explains: „I don’t want to say that Western press is objective and independent, but if in Latvia there is a great demand in news from East, then the question arises – why Western channels, radio and press are watched and read? In order to get more complete understanding and draw conclusions, the information shall be obtained from various sources. I think that a lack in demand in Western mass media is caused by language barrier. Therefore, I look forward into the fact, that among today’s young people this language barrier is starting to disappear.”„If I am asked whether there is independent press in Latvia, I should confess that I rarely read local publications, but even in those rare cases I come to a conclusion that there is often not only a lack of objectivity, but also a lack of logic. Press tends to be yellow journalism with tendency to sensationalism. The main thing is the shocking title, not an objective analysis of the issue. There is a lack of balance in the mass media in Latvia – between analytical and entertaining news, between the positive and. negative.”
„If I am asked whether there is independent press in Latvia, I should confess that I rarely read local publications, but even in those rare cases I come to a conclusion that there is often not only a lack of objectivity, but also a lack of logic. Press tends to be yellow journalism with tendency to sensationalism. The main thing is the shocking title, not an objective analysis of the issue. There is a lack of balance in the mass media in Latvia – between analytical and entertaining news, between the positive and. negative.”
When we return to my conclusions by working with students, I should mention that the only way how to promote the analytical thinking of people and ability to select the information is to cultivate such practice already from the early childhood. From my own experience I can say that it really works. When I was at the form 4 at school the teacher assigned us to read „New York Times” and to analyse what we have read. He urged us to engage, to find imperfections, mistakes and even to write our own letters to the editorial board. Also today’s young people shall be more engaged in shaping public opinion – not only to read, but also to write them. We live in the times, when it is so easy to publish one’s opinion – one can create blogs, publish articles in internet, etc. These opportunities shall be used!
I invite not to mix up publishing own opinion in internet with writing anonymous comments. The fact that a part of society considers writing such comments as a norm is not acceptable. Anonymity abolishes any responsibility and a writer doesn’t think that his/her comment is abusive, offending or even absurd,” emphasizes J.Ulmanis.
When returning to the question of freedom of speech, J.Ulmanis explains: „To my mind, everybody can say anything within limits of respect. Namely, everybody shall assume the responsibility about what has been said or written and there should be things that are respected, for example, nationality, gender, religion. If you wish your religion, opinion and point of view to be respected, respect others, as well.”
J.Ulmanis invites not only his students, but also everybody to be tolerant and to respect other people, their points of view and opinions. „Do not always by all means strive to demonstrate own principles, sometimes with tolerance you achieve much more,” reminds the lecturer.