Skip to content

Self-censorship by law bloggers a dishonor to freedom of expression

freedom of expression
January 7, 2015

Over the last few weeks a good number of bloggers around the world have been jailed for expressing themselves about matters their governments didn’t like. Some were arrested under color of the law, some just rounded up and taken from their families without being charged.

A Brazilian blogger was murdered the day after Christmas for blogging on government corruption.

Above the Law’s Elie Mystal (@elienyc) wrote a piece in the NY Daily News about cops after the grand jury’s exoneration of the police officer who choked Eric Garner. He received enough hate mail from cops to, as Mystal describes it, tighten up his sphincter a bit when it comes to writing about cops.

Today we have twelve French journalists killed execution style for the apparent publishing of anti-religious cartoons. Cartoons which militants found offensive to their ‘God.’

It’s easy to say that large publishers will not be censored by these actions. They may risk the danger, but what about the individual bloggers and reporters?

As Mystal says, it’s hard to know which freedom of expression hill you want to die on. Self-censorship is real.

How do you think reporters for The New York Times feel tonight seeing military style police positioned at the door after today’s Paris killings?

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 7.09.57 PM

As law bloggers we’re unlikely to be self-censored out of fear of losing life or liberty. But each and every day lawyer bloggers self-censor themselves for things so much less important.

What will my partner or business associate think about something I blog? How could I ever blog anything beyond a summary of the law? I could never share insight or commentary. What if I blogged something others disagreed with? What if I blogged something that was used against me or a client at a later date? What if I was sanctioned for an ethical violation for blogging something?

Self-censorship by lawyers — those charged to protect freedom of expression and freedom of the press — out of fear of the very unlikely and the, arguably, petty.

The next time we’re feeling self-censorship as a law bloggers we ought to give thought to the battles fought by those who have given their life or liberty for freedom of the press. That blog publishing platform you have is a printing press.

The freedom of expression hill we’re asked to make a stand on is not all that high. We ought to honor it — and them.

Posted in: