Pussy Riot and the issue of free speech in societies

The ongoing saga of the issues of justice and free speech related to the Russian band Pussy Riot hit a new crescendo in the media yesterday and as a publisher it has captured my attention.  If you are not familiar with the story I’d suggest you read this Yahoo News article before continuing.

Prior to the international outcry over their incarceration and trial I had never heard of this group; in fact I still haven’t even heard one of their songs.  What interests me (aside from the issues of human rights and justice) is what this story has to tell the world about the role of freedom of speech within a society.

Key powers in Europe and the Unites States have decried the ruling against the band members as unfair.  The ruling has touched off a series of global protests, garnered protests from a growing number of musicians, and again placed the role of government (in this case the forces of Vladamir Putin) with regard to the issue of free speech front and center.

Why has this case received so much attention and why is it relevant to the world at large?  World history is replete with countless examples of how a society is impacted when freedom of speech is subjected to trials such as this.  When voices are silenced (whether you agree with the band’s message and method in delivering it or disagree, they have been silenced) it lessens the discourse of a people and, therefore, a society.

My intent with this short post is not to advocate that no limits be placed on free speech or to judge the band’s choices; rather, dear reader, I would like you to simply pause and consider how important the free exchange of thoughts and opinions are to our lives and in creating viable, healthy, and sustainable societies.