A few hundred years ago, the first democracies were founded on justice and freedom of expression. A free press promised to reveal cases of corruptions, to advocate change for the better. Yet time unravels, and this scenario seems to be coming to an end.
In Greek mythology, Cronus devoured his children, fearing that they would eventually overthrow him. Today, a person who reveals confidential information, – that one world power is spying on the rest, – is threatened with imprisonment. Speaking out in the public interest means jail when the secrets disclosed are detrimental to the government that committed them. Is democracy devouring its very child, freedom of expression?
Espionage Act, Official Secrets Act… legislation is cited to protect the powerful from being overthrown. If the whistleblower doesn’t get caught, he suffers life-long exile. Holed up in an embassy or a foreign country whose authorities will take him in. A distraction from their own corruption, a justification to maneuver international relations to their advantage.
Meanwhile, parliamentary immunity keeps politicians worldwide exempt from being judged. In some democracies, the perpetrators remain in power regardless of the corruption scandals they might be involved in. In others, they resign. But really, the slander continues under another leader.
And the press either teams up, or doesn’t dare publish. Political parties, investors and financial institutions dictate the editorial lines of most media companies. Independent and investigative journalism is getting rare, fear of making illegal activities public abounds. Reporters are forced to take refuge in branded content, and write for corporate blogs instead. Freedom of expression just doesn’t sell.
Political parties are voraciously feasting on the very freedom of expression they once fought for – a paradox or a reality? Is democracy the new Cronus? Will freedom of expression be the sacrifice necessary to maintain the power of the myth?