Bras. Political Sci. Rev.2015;9(1):65-92.
On The Limits of Free Speech: Towards the Fair Value of Communicative Liberties
This study addresses, from a theoretically oriented perspective, the relationship between freedom of expression and democracy, trying to assess its implications for the regulation of mass media. Starting with a legal case in which a TV channel and a journalist were prosecuted for hate speech, looking at the reaction of the São Paulo Press Association to the case, I examine three perspectives on the statute and the reach of expressive liberties—the Millian Principle, the collectivist approach, and the participatory view—which connect these liberties to the ideas of moral autonomy and self-determination. For different, but related, reasons, these views present a conception of free speech that would not garner universal agreement in a pluralistic society. Moreover, some of the ideas defended could justify rules (or the absence of them) that might harm the social bases of self-respect. In opposition to these lines of thought, I argue for the fair value of communicative liberties; i.e., the idea that everyone should have access to the same rights and effective conditions to exercise communication. This means a fair distribution of opportunities for occupying the mediated public space and the establishment of rules to discourage the dissemination of ideas that fail to acknowledge the equal respect that we owe to each other as members of the political association. Democracy, I shall contend, comprises both private and public autonomy. A fair system of communicative freedom is to be seen as the outcome of and the upholding force in a democratic society.