Intellectual Freedom and Its Relevance

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What in your view is meant by the term ‘Intellectual Freedom’? Discuss, with examples, its continuing relevance for the library and information profession.

My understanding is Intellectual Freedom (IF) is the right of every individual to have freedom of thought, freedom of communication, freedom of ideas and the right, not only to receive information but also the right to impart information without restriction. It is regarded as a basic human right.

In most democratic countries IF is enshrined in their constitution and amendments. Countries, be it a democratic state or dictatorship state are signatories to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that everyone has a right to freedom of opinion and expression, this is the right to hold opinions without hindrance, the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. This is also embodied in other international conventions, such as the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 10(1)) and The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19)

IF is of interest and relevance to all of us, since it affects us in our private lives as citizens within a society and our professional lives, since as members of the information profession we are responsible from time to time for selecting or rejecting materials for our collections.

Intellectual freedom is supported and defended by the main bodies dealing with libraries, such as The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and the American Library Association (ALA) under the Library Bill of Rights. The library as a social institution plays an important role in the formation of the intellectual potential of a society, and therefore it must respond to all changes in a country. Providing free and equal rights of access to information is essential to the system of self-government. People must have access to all information, ideas and points of view. A precondition for a free society is an informed and enlightened citizenry. Freedom of expression is essential to a free society and provides a check against possible government corruption and excess.

IFLA is the leading international body representing library information services and their users. IFLA believes that the right to know and freedom of expression are two aspects of the same principle. The right to know is a requirement for freedom of thought and conscience; freedom of thought and freedom of expression are necessary conditions for freedom of access to information. Armed with a rationale based in Article 19, IFLA has adopted positive positions on libraries and intellectual freedom since the 1990s. The Canadian Library Association's Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom states that all persons possess "the fundamental right ... to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity, and to express their thoughts publicly."[6] This right was enshrined into law in 2004 in British Columbia, which grants protection against litigation for libraries for their holdings.

IF is regarded as one of the core principles of libraries and information profession. One cannot discuss IF and libraries and the information profession without first looking at the roles of libraries. Libraries are considered the forums/reservoirs for information and ideas and information workers have a crucial role in the provision and dissemination of information. Libraries contribute to the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom and help to safeguard basic democratic values and universal civil rights. Libraries are provided with legal guidelines and well defined standards from the bodies to which they are members,...
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