Sunday 19 November 2017

Saluting 'Forbidden Voices' who defend free speech

Brave whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and journalists often risk their lives to uncover the truth, writes Carol Hunt

Carol Hunt

Carol Hunt

AS Edward Snowden said so succinctly during Channel 4's alternative Christmas Day message: "Privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be." In exposing details of electronic surveillance by US and British spy services, Snowden has ignited a debate on the value of free speech and why it must be protected.

Earlier last week the National Archives released documents relating to our own surveillance "Watergate", or what former journalist Geraldine Kennedy called "the most difficult time in my personal and professional life". Thirty years ago it was formally confirmed by the new Minister for Justice, Michael Noonan, that both Kennedy and Bruce Arnold's phones had been tapped -- Kennedy's from July to November 1982 under a new category of "national security" (she had been writing about dissent in the Fianna Fail ranks).

We sometimes forget that crusading journalists can risk life and limb to uncover dark and hidden secrets -- in officialdom and elsewhere -- in the public interest, but Kennedy's description of her life at that time reveals the fear and danger she felt as she exercised her supposed right to free speech in Charles Haughey's Ireland.

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