As human beings, we all have the right to express what we feel. An expression is basically a thought or feeling which a person acts out or in other words expresses to someone else. God has given us the power to express ourselves to others and this makes our life even more valuable. Every country has one basic right attached to every human being and that is their right to freedom of speech and expression. People use this right to express themselves in an effort to make their surroundings favorable to a proper living. As we all know, Bangladesh is a democratic country and thus people living here preserve the right to freedom of expression and speech. Yet, the general people are being deprived of such basic rights as different Govt. bodies try and restrict people from their freedom of expression by passing on various ordinances under the Constitution of Bangladesh and sometimes based on absolutely irrelevant facts. When we raise our voices against the govt. for depriving us of such a basic right, the law somehow finds a way to punish us.
Freedom of Speech and Expression
There are certain limitations though under the right to speech and expression some of which are committing crime, illicit acts, insanity, slandering, etc. Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes freedom of speech and expression as a basic human right. Also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) recognizes this right on the international arena of human rights. ARTICLE 19 of the ICCPR states that “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. It clearly states that to raise your voice against something or to express yourself freely, you should not use unfair means such as creating violence or chaos because that is when you can be restricted from your freedom of expression.
In the constitution of Bangladesh the right to freedom of expression and speech of the people of the state is clearly stated in Article (39).
Effective Mediums for “Freedom of Speech and Expression”
ARTICLE 19 of the ICCPR does mention two mediums through which one can express themselves without being violent or irrational. They are:
- Print Media: A media that is based on written articles, letters, advertisements, notes, banners, mail, cards, arts, etc. This is a highly effective medium to express something to a whole bunch of people without even creating any chaos or violence.
- 2. Electronic Media: A media based on visual advertise news, arts, graphics, e-mail, internet, television, etc. This media is enormous. It has the largest viewing audience and anything expressed through this medium reaches a huge amount of people in no time. Here again, the communication occurs in a non-violent manner.
Significance of freedom of expression and speech under the Constitution of Bangladesh:
The Right to Information Act 2002 (Working Paper) was produced by in early 2002 and it had to undergo some degree of circulation for comment. During late 2003, Article 19 received a copy of “Working Paper” after a wide and thorough circulation. The Working Paper provides narrative discussions on the key issues which can be dealt with by a freedom of information act. It also provides detailed drafting suggestions. ARTICLE 19 welcomes this initiative as a positive step to revolutionize freedom of expression in Bangladesh.
ARTICLE 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), UN General Assembly resolution, fastening on all States as a matter of usual international law, sets out the elementary right to freedom of expression in the following terms:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”
The Constitution of Bangladesh is the chief law followed by the people and govt. of Bangladesh. The Constitution of our country states “Freedom of Expression and Speech” as a basic human right for all living people of Bangladesh in ARTICLE 39 of Part 3 (Fundamental Rights)
“Freedom of thought and conscience and of speech”.
1 (London: ARTICLE 19, 1999). Available at: http://www.article19.org/docimages/512.htm.
2 (London: ARTICLE 19, 2001). Available at: http://www.article19.org/docimages/1112.htm.
3. UN General Assembly Resolution 217A(III), 10 December 1948.
4. UN General Assembly Resolution 2200A(XXI) of 16 December 1966, in force 23 March 1976.
5.  Timeline: a history of free speech” The Guardian. February 5, 2006.
Constitution of Bangladesh – ARTICLE 39 of Chapter III (Fundamental Rights)
1)” Freedom of thought and conscience is guaranteed” but it can be restricted by law if any situation arrives for which the constitution has no support.
2) “Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of
The State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation
to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence,
(a) The right of every citizen of freedom of expression and speech; and freedom of the
Press, are guaranteed.”
Source: “Constitution of Bangladesh” (pdf)
Reasons to back the restriction imposed on Freedom of Expression and Speech under the Constitution of Bangladesh:
In case of any illegal act or violence there can be certain restrictions to Freedom of Expression and Speech. In accordance with ARTICLE 39(2) of the Constitution of Bangladesh, restrictions can be imposed on “Freedom of Expression and Speech” for the following reasons:
- Against the concern of sanctuary of The State.
- Against the friendly relation with foreign states.
- Everything associated to disapproval of court authority.
- Insult or provocation to any offence.
- Contravention of decency or ethics.
- Violation of public order.
The Process of restricting Freedom of expression and speech under the Constitution of Bangladesh:
Violation of ARTICLE 39(2) can lead to restriction of “Freedom of Expression” according to the Constitution of Bangladesh. A violation of ARTICLE 39(2) will infact make way for an emergency law to be applied. There are reasons for the application of the Emergency law. They are as follows:
141A. Proclamation of Emergency
(1) If the President is certain that a crucial emergency prevails in which the safety or economic
Life of the country, or any part is endangered by war or external aggression or internal commotion, he may make a decision to issue a Proclamation of Emergency, provided that such Proclamation shall have need of for its validity the prior counter signature of the Prime Minister of the country.
(2) A Proclamation of Emergency:
(a) It can be revoked by a successive Proclamation;
(b) Should be laid infront of the Parliament;
(c) It shall cease to function at the expiration of one hundred and twenty days, unless before the
expiration of that period it has been approved by a declaration of Parliament, provided that if any such Proclamation is issued at a time when Parliament stands dissolved or the disbanding of Parliament takes place during the period of one hundred and twenty days referred to in sub-clause (c), the Proclamation shall cease to function at the expiration of thirty days from the date on which Parliament first meets after its re-constitution, unless before that expiration of the meet after its re-constitution, unless before that expiration of the said period of thirty days a resolution approving the Proclamation has been passed by Parliament.
(3) A Proclamation of Emergency declaring that the security of Bangladesh, or any part is vulnerable to war or external aggression or by any internal commotion may be made before the actual occurrence of war or any such aggression or commotion, if the President is satisfied that there is looming danger.
141B. Suspension of provisions of certain articles during emergencies
When a Proclamation of Emergency is in operation, articles 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 42 shall restrict the power of the State so that it can make any law or to take any executive action which the State would, but for the provisions contained in Part III of this Constitution, be competent to make or to take, to the extent of the incompetence, cease to have effect as soon as the Proclamation ceases to operate, except as respects things done or omitted before the law so ceases to have effect.
1) ARTICLE 36: Freedom of movement
Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the public interest, every citizen has the right to move freely throughout Bangladesh or to reside and settle in any place they want and to leave and re-enter Bangladesh.
2) ARTICLE 37: Freedom of assembly
Every citizen of the country has the right to assemble, join and to participate in public meetings and processions peacefully and without arms and illegal objects, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of public order health.
3) ARTICLE 38: Freedom of association.
Every citizen has the right to form associations, group, parties or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of morality or public order.
4) ARTICLE 39: Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech.
i)” Freedom of thought and conscience is guaranteed”. But it can be Restricted by law if circumstances which not support the constitution arrives.
ii) “Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of
the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation
to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence-
(a) the right of every citizen of freedom of expression and speech; and freedom of the
press, are guaranteed.”
5) ARTICLE 40: Freedom of profession or occupation.
Subject to any restrictions imposed by law, every citizen of the country who possesses such qualifications, if any, as may be prescribed by law in relation to his profession, occupation, trade or business shall have the right to enter into any lawful profession or occupation, and to conduct and make any lawful trade or business.
6) ARTICLE 42: Rights to property.
(1) Subject to any restrictions imposed by law, every citizen of the country have the right to acquire, hold, transfer or otherwise dispose of property, and no property shall be compulsorily acquired, nationalized or requisitioned save by authority of law.
(2) A law made under clause (1) shall provide for the acquisition, nationalization or requisition
with compensation and shall either fix the amount of compensation or specify the principles
on which, and the manner in which, the compensation is to be assessed and paid, but
no such law shall be called in question in any court on the ground that any provision in respect
of such compensation is not adequate.
(3) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any law made before the commencement
of the Proclamations (Amendment) Order, 1977 (Proclamations Order No. I of 1977), so far as it relates to the acquisition, nationalization or acquisition of any property without compensation.
141C. Deferral of enforcement of Fundamental Right in times of Emergencies
- While a Proclamation of Emergency is in operation, the President may advice the Prime Minister, by order , declare that the right to move any court for the enforcement of such of the rights conferred by Part III of this Constitution as may be specified in the order, and all proceedings pending in any court for the enforcement of the right so specified, shall remain suspended for the period during which the Proclamation is in force or for such shorter period as may be specified in the order.
- An order made under this article may extend to the whole of Bangladesh or any part.
- Every order made under this article shall be laid before the Parliament.
To conclude my report, I would say even though every person on this earth has the right to freedom of expression and speech, it has to be restricted to some extent for the greater good of the country and its global image. Since, the Constitution has a way to restrict it, why not? Afterall, we all misuse our powers and abilities and freedom of expression and speech is in another word a power inside all human beings. Therefore, we should all use our freedom in all the good ways and not let our freedom of expression be a negative aspect for our country.
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