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BBC 6 minute English-What is freedom

BBC 6 minute English-What is freedom

BBC 6 minute English-What is freedom


Transcript of the podcast

NB: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Rob: Welcome to 6 Minute English with me, Rob. Finn: And me, Finn. Hello

Rob: In today’s programme, we’re talking about freedom. It’s a big subject and it’s something the BBC has been exploring in its Freedom 2014 season

Finn: That’s right. There’s been a season of programmes about what freedom means to different people

Rob: Well, we’re going to try and summarise what freedom really is and look at some related vocabulary. But first a definition – what does freedom mean

Finn: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants

Rob: Yes, it’s something many people expect to have – we consider it our right – but certain people in some of the world do not get to experience the feeling of freedom

Finn: You mean some people are restricted and controlled in what they can and can’t do

Rob: Some organisations try to rank countries – or give them a score – based on how free its people are. It’s calculated according to certain factors – and my question for you today Finn is, according to the World Freedom Index 2013 by the Canadian Fraser Institute, the people of which country came out as number one, in terms of having the most freedom? Was it

a) the USA

b) Sweden

c) New Zealand

Finn: I’m going to say c) New Zealand

Rob: We’ll see if you’re right later on. So let’s talk more about freedom – a word that means many things to many people. We sometimes hear about political freedom – where people are able to vote in elections to choose who runs their country – and where people are able to challenge what their leaders do. We often refer to this system as a democracy

Finn: Many people would say that any system of democracy should automatically include the right to free speech – that’s the right to say what you want about anything you want. We also hear about freedom for women – when they have the same rights as men. This is one form of equality. We also hear about equality for people of different colour, religion or sexual orientation. People usually don’t feel free or equal if they are treated differently because of something like their race, colour, gender or disability. One example of this is the system of apartheid, which passed laws to restrict the freedom and rights of black people in South Africa

Rob: Many of those laws are no longer in existence – but freedom is still an issue around the world today. The BBC Freedom 2014 season looked at examples of modern-day slavery in the Thai fishing industry. There is forced labour, where people are made to work in terrible conditions for little or no money

Finn: There’s also secrecy and surveillance – when you’re being watched by the government; these can also be seen as ways of controlling someone’s freedom. And some say that blocking the public’s access to certain information limits freedom

Rob: Yes, the American computer expert Edward Snowden famously disclosed thousands of confidential – or secret – documents held by America’s National Security Agency so people could see what information was being kept about them

Finn: But possibly the most personal example of having your freedom restricted is when you are held unfairly against your will – in prison or as a hostage, which is what happened to Norman Kember, a British man who was taken hostage in Iraq in 2005

Rob: He says the only thing that kept him free was his mind. He would picture something good in his head. So, although as a hostage his body wasn’t free, he could still feel free by thinking about his garden – the flowers and trees and the sound of birdsong. Simple pleasures

Finn: Freedom really came for him when he was eventually rescued during a military operation on 23 March 2006, and the first thing he did when he returned to England was… walk in his garden. It must have been a great feeling. Rob: In different situations, people around the world have fought to win their freedom in many different ways. They have held protests and marches, and campaigned for a change in laws and attitudes – changing the way people think

Finn: And when people living under a regime want to make a change for the better they sometimes take to the streets to chant, shout and sing. Lots of songs have been written about freedom. But if you can’t sing, there’s another, newer way to make your voice heard: people use social media to spread their message and hopefully get support for their cause. It’s what happened in a number of uprisings in the Middle East, such as the Arab Spring

Rob: Let’s get back to the question I asked you earlier about which country came first in the World Freedom Index 2013, according to the Canadian Fraser Institute

Finn: I said c) New Zealand. Was I right

Rob: Yes, well done, the answer is New Zealand. The freedom index was based on a number of measures such as freedom of speech, religion, economic choice and women’s rights. You can find more detail about the BBC Freedom Season on the BBC website. We’ll be back with more 6 Minute English very soon. Please join us then

Both: Bye

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