A Note from the Graduate Section Guest Editor of the Fall 2008 Issue: The Right to Communicate: History, Current Debates, and Future Challenges

Article excerpt

Article (19) of the United Nations 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is considered the cornerstone of the concept of the human Right to Communicate (RTC). It states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." However, the RTC encompasses many ambiguities and debates, especially today with the ongoing proliferation of new kinds of media due to continual technological advancements. And so, many questions remain to be answered. For instance, what is the RTC? Does the RTC mean a total freedom of expression regardless of frontiers? And what are those frontiers? How can this right be practiced? And what are the mechanics of its enforcement? Who are the agents who can enforce such a right? What are the current global debates on the RTC, and how valid are they? Finally, what future global challenges need to be overcome before such an idealistic right can be achieved?

A major goal of this Fall issue is to contribute to an intellectual and multi-disciplinary framework of the RTC that will help to better illustrate the different emerging issues in the practice of this important and complex human right. Further, this issue aims to explore the interplay between the various global legislations that frame the RTC. For instance, one might consider the language found within Article 19 of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its relationship to the diverse ethical practices and beliefs exercised in different corners of the world.

The Graduate Section of the Fall 2008 Issue includes five refereed papers and one invited paper. In the first refereed paper, Lauren B. Movius (University of Southern California), analyzes the three-decade evolution of the RTC debates in "Global Debates on the Right to Communicate". The paper explains that the intergovernmental efforts reached an impasse when they were crippled by cold war pressures and the politicization of the RTC. However, civil society and non-governmental organizations have also promoted communication rights. The paper investigates a noticeable example of a global expression of the RTC movement-the Communication Rights in the Information Study (CRIS) campaign-as a specific case study of transnational collective action for communication rights.

Next, Jason Hannan (Carleton University), in his paper "Religious Arguments in the Public Sphere: Rethinking a Free Speech Controversy", examines John Rawls' principle of constraint and reviews the controversy concerning the use of religious arguments in the public sphere. Rawls' model of public reason had first excluded religious arguments from the domain of democratic discourse, but then allowed them on the condition that they be supplemented by secular reasons. Critics argue that such constraint amounts to an assault on freedom of speech, and defend the right to invoke religious arguments in public moral discourse, even in the arena of formal deliberation. Hannan argues that the disagreement between Rawls and his critics hinges on certain problematic assumptions, not the least of which are Rawls' concepts of freedom, religion, and truth.

Applying the debate to a specific region of the world, Miriam Wimmer (University of Brasilia) and Octavio Penna Pieranti (Getulio Vargas Foundation) provide a comprehensive overview of the challenges that are faced in Brazil for the development and consolidation of the RTC in their paper "The Right to Communicate in Brazil: Historical Development and Current Challenges". …


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