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Free speech exposes truth

Dear Editor:

It is no surprise that one of the persons implicated, whether truly or falsely, in the recent distribution of anti-government leaflets around Phnom Penh is now apparently in fear for his safety.

As I once stated at an AusAID interview in Canberra for a project supporting justice sector reform here in Cambodia, it is no mystery that Cambodians are afraid to speak out in their own country.

The representative of the Cambodian Ministry of Justice present at the time merely sat stony-faced at the table. Come to think of it, the AusAID representatives also seemed unpleased. I didn't get the job.

Of course, the problem with preventing free speech, no matter how politically objectionable it may be to those with the power to prevent it, is that by doing so the ideas expressed are inadvertently but inevitably given a level of credibility and reasonableness they may not otherwise have garnered. After all, it is reasonable to assume that if powerful persons are afraid of the mere expression of an idea, then that idea must have a grain of truth. The assumption may be incorrect, but it will nevertheless be made.

On the other hand, the great benefit of a society where ideas can be freely expressed without fear of retaliation from the powers that be is that they may then be subjected to the objective scrutiny of the average reasonable citizen and countered with opposing reasonable arguments. Thus, truly ridiculous notions and accusations will be exposed for what they are in the arena of open, public discourse, rather than being repeated in whispers year after year, their merit never tested.

Raymund Johansen
Afghanistan

Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.
The views expressed above are solely the author's and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

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