|Restrictions on freedom of speech and expression can limit an individual’s freedom of speech and expression-Discuss|
Freedom of speech is the right of an individual to speak, receive and send important through any media without the fear of any punishment. On the other hand, freedom of expression can be described as right to impart the nonverbal expressions used to communicate with others. It is considered as a basic human right to speak freely. This right is generally recognized in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Right and thus is an international law which is recognized as laws of the most of the countries (Wikipedia, N.d). Most of the people in the democratic country view their right to speak and expression their opinions freely. Freedom of speech and expressions give people the right for people to expression opinions through any medium which is main function of democracy and political freedom of any country. However, at certain times freedom of speech and expression can cause harm, violence and led to war. Therefore, restrictions on freedom of speech and expression can limit an individual’s freedom of speech and expression.
The First Amendment of the Constitution
The first Amendment of the US Constitution states “Congress shall make no
law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. This further states that government or state government has no right to restrict someone’s freedoms of speech and expression however there are some limitations to that in special cases. This also states that the government is prevented from ruling out the freedom of speech but public corporations have the right to restrict and censor the speech of their employees (Standler, 2004).
The idea of freedom of speech can be traced back to the 1948. The early Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that everyone has the right to expression and have their own opinions without any injection from others. This also includes the freedoms of expressions which is any individual’s to right of any individuals to expression, send and receive any ideas though books, newspapers and any medium .
Today the freedom of speech and expression is recognized as an international human right law which includes three different aspects:-
- The right to look for information.
- The right to gather information.
- The right to communicate information.
The Part of Speech which is protected
The first amendment provides rights to any individual to expression their opinions through writing, speaking, symbols and it also protects children’s right to speak. Anyone is protected by the first amendment freedom of speech expression his or her opinions through books, songs, newspapers and media. However, there are certain restrictions on that. On the other hand, symbolic speech which represents the nonverbal communication to expression opinions is also protected by the right to freedom of speech and expression (American Civil Liberties Union, 2009). Back in 1969, many students from public school wear black bands in their hand to protect the Vietnam War which is a symbolic speech protected by court. There are other kinds of symbolic expressions like political slogans, T-shirt motto, artistic works, musical performance and theoretical performance which are protected by the first amendment. Politicians also have the right to picket, speak aggressively however they have no right to cause physical harm to anyone. Beside, the freedom of speech can be extended to freedom of internet which is the right of any individual to excess any web-content without any censorship. Therefore, this means that any individual has the right to express any information in the internet without anyone else violating their privacy. Beside, the freedom of speech is also known as the right to privacy is recognized as a human and is recognized worldwide.
Restrictions to freedom of Speech & Expressions
The first amendment of constitution to freedom of speech has certain restrictions due to both legal violations and societal disapprobation. The constitution has the right to restrict someone’s freedom of speech and expression when it might conflict with the vales of the society and harm someone’s principle.
The following are the list off exceptions provided by the court to the First amendment which are (National Endowment for the Arts, n.d.):-
- Defamation- Defamation is the intention of an individual to spread lies about another person with the objective to harm other’s reputation. This restricts that individual’s right to freedom of speech and if whatever the individual the claimed about other person is provided to be wrong then the wrongdoer can be sued and have to fine to the court. However, as the freedom of expression is difficult to apply in practice is not considered as part of defamation. For instance, if a newspaper publishes false things about a celebrity, then the celebrity has the right to sue the newspaper and get money from the newspaper in the court.
- Obscenity- When referred to freedom of speech, obscenity can be refereed to as any words, expressions or speech that is concerned to be immoral or hateful to the society. The first amendment has banned freedom pf speech to anyone expression obscenity without any profit that it has caused actual harm.
- Child pornography- The child pornography used to display sexual images of a real minor through any medium like books, internet, and newspaper is restricted by the Constitution. Therefore, it is restricted by the government even when it is not offensive and people cannot even use child pornography in their home. According to the Rule passed by the congress in 2003, no one is allowed to use any cartoons, images or anything of minors engaged in sexual conduct unless it has a significant value.
- Causing panic- It is not allowed to give a false statement to the public to cause harm or increase fear. For instance it is illegal to lie about “fire” in public place like school to cause harm which might cause injury and fear while people tried to run to escape.
- Fighting words- The first amendment restrict the freedom of speech and expression to those who utter words to violate peace and harm. In case of this event, the speaker should speak such so words that he/she is subjected to physical harm by another which will allow government to censor the speaker’s speech.
- Establishment of Religion – The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that the congress will not have any law to put restrictions on the establishment and principles of religion. However, if anyone delivers any speech that is harmful to the society, disrupts the harmony and many negative international results that the government has the right to restrict that freedom of speech.
- Sedition- People are not allowed to expression their opinions and ideas which might cause any e harm and will ruin government’s reputation. Therefore, these speeches are not protected by first amendment.
- Offense- The first amendment of freedom of speech and expression is not applicable to people who deliver speech which may be viewed as offensive to other people. These types of offensive speech may include the words say to disregard someone’s religion.
- Incitement to crime- It is unlawful and restricted by constitution to deliver a speech which incites another individual to cause a crime. Therefore, the speech and expression delivered to other people to make them cause are restricted by the Constitution.
- Speech of children- All the speech that is protected by the First Amendment may be restricted when it is delivered to children. The Congress passed the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) in 1988 so that materials and speech not send to material to protect their self interest (Cohen, 2009). Therefore, it is illegal, for instance to show television commercials to children‘s cartoon show if parents are not present with them. This is because minors don’t understand what is right or wrong for them which might cause them harm without their knowledge.
- Time, Place and Manner Restrictions- The speech which is ported by the first amendment are restricted by the time, place and manner restrictions which can have alternative communication channels, serve minimal government interest and are content neutral. Therefore, music may be protected by the first amendment but playing the same music in loud volume which cause disruption in a neighborhood is subjected to court’s interrogation.
- Commercial speech- The first amendment gives the right to any individual to sell goods and services through any way. Therefore, the books and firms published for gaining profit is legal. However, it is illegal to show advertisements and sell products which are harmful. For instance, it is illegal to show advertisements for tobacco in the television. Although, not all commercial speech are not restricted by the government they are thoroughly regulated. Therefore, businesses need to disclose information to the government often regarding their commercial speech.
- Incidental Restrictions- The freedom of speech can restricted due to some incidents. If the incidental restrictions required a constitution attention that it will be scrutinized under the first amendment. For instance, during Vietnam War a person burned his daft car in front o a huge crowd to show his hatred for the war. However, he was later arrested by the government on breaking freedom of speech in light of incidental restrictions.
In my option, the first amendment does a thorough job of protecting initial rights and freedoms without causing any harm to the society. First of all, the freedom of speech is a very vague term which requires a lot of explanation and analysis which the government does through the Constitution. It can be also seen that certain speech can cause disputation and lead to physical harm like political slogans, pornography and hate speech can lead to crimes, rape and murders. Therefore, government is justified in putting restrictions on these freedoms of speech and expressions to maintain social equilibrium. There are also many intelligent people in the world that held hostile views toward certain religion and it is government right to protect these religions and beliefs of religious people by preventing the intellectual people from saying those offensive things. Every government has the right to protect its citizens from harm and violence from foreign enemies through times of war. During war, if anyone says any hateful thing this can give rise to propaganda which might harm national interest. Above all, it is a government’s duty to protect the minor. Therefore, the restriction on freedom of speech and expression to prevent minors from exposed to offensive, pornographic and damaged materials is very justified. However, restrictions on freedom of speech have certain limitations. The government restricts the freedom of speech however the government holds the power and can restrict people speech if it is against the government’s interest. Therefore, although a person is honest sometimes his or her opinion may not expressed due to conflicting interests with the government. Another critical issue here is that government’s restricts the freedom of speech so it is not offensive to minors. However, in a democratic country if the freedom of speech of minors is restricted that this means their interest in not protected and so they won’t be heard.
The first amendment constitution has been applied so that people can speak freely without allowing harms to other. All the law recognized by international law provides significant importance to protect national harmony. In a democratic society, it seems fair to restrict the freedom of speech and expressions when it harms people principles. Many people can also say that this offensive speech can be ignored by avoiding them and so that should be unpunished. However, this will give other liberty to throw offensive speech to other people. Although, anyone has the right to expression his or her opinion, no one has the right to harm other which is justified by the limitations on freedom of speech and expression. These limitations also foster peace, harmony and political freedom in a society. From the day the first Amendment to freedom of speech and restriction were applied people knew that the right to expression opinions and idea is a very serious thing and they don’t take it lightly. Therefore, freedom of speech and expression is a human right which is part of international law and regulated by constitution to reduce chaos and foster harmony in the society,
· American Civil Liberties Union . (2005, October 31). Freedom of Expression. Retrieved from http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/freedom-expression
- Cohen, H. (2009, October 16). Freedom of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendmen.t Retrieved from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/95-815.pdf
- National Endowment for the Arts. (n.d.). Freedom of Expression.Retrieved from http://www.csulb.edu/~jvancamp/freedom1.html#text12
· Standler, B.R. (2004). Freedom of Speech in USA for Employees of Private Companies. Retrieved from http://www.rbs2.com/freespch.htm
· University of Chicago Roundtable. (1996). Freedom of Speech and the Constitutional Tension Method. Retrieved from http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/tension.htm
- Wikipedia. (n.d.). Freedom of speech. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech
. In its 1969 decision in Tinker v. Des Moines , the Court recognized the right of public school students to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War.
 In a case upholding high school students’ right to wear black arm bands to protest the war in Vietnam, the Supreme Court held that public school students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom.