Freedom of Speech is not absolute

An edited version of this letter appeared in the Sunday Age, 10 October 2010:

In his article “Silenced in court” (October 3), Chris Berg states, as one of his concerns about the use of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, that the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs (AIJAC) threatened to take the Islamic Information and Services Network of Australia to court, but his claim is incorrect. Berg appears to have taken his chronology of action under the Act directly from Wikipedia, but the Age article cited in the Wikipedia entry as authority for this claim about AIJAC provides no such supporting evidence. In the article, an AIJAC spokesman expressed concern that an Islamic bookshop was selling “extreme jihadist material, explicitly calling for violence against non-Muslims,” and called on authorities to investigate possible breaches of the Crimes Act.

AIJAC believes in freedom of speech, but this is not an absolute right.

As your editorial (October 3) states, some speech, such as defamation and, in this case, direct incitement to terrorism and violence, is rightly banned. AIJAC stands by its position that speech that directly incites violence or terrorism has no place in our society and should be thoroughly investigated and promptly acted against by the appropriate authorities.

Dr Colin Rubenstein
Executive Director
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

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