Through a history war for national independence we established the independent, sovereign People’s Republic of Bangladesh. We have proclaimed independence on 26 day of March, 1971.
Law is the body of official rules and regulations, legislations, judicial opinions that is used to govern a society and to control the behavior of its member. So law is a formal mechanism of social control. Legal system elaborates rights and responsibilities in a variety of ways.
Constitution is a written instrument embodying the rules of a political or social organization
As a part of the society the importance of free speech is a basic and valuable characteristic. Human being conveys his thoughts, sentiments and feelings to others through speech. Freedom of speech and expression is a natural right which human being acquire on birth. Surabhi Singh (n.d.) stated that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek and receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” proclaims the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As man lives in a civilized society, his desires have to be controlled and regulated and this is restricted by the constitution in the larger interest of the community. In the constitution of People’s Republic of Bangladesh the right of every citizen of freedom of speech and expression are guaranteed. Freedom of speech is the single most important political rights of the citizen. Any political action or resistance to injustice and oppression is not possible without freedom of speech. Elections would have no importance without free speech. To help restrain the oppressive rule freedom of speech is important.
Meaning of freedom of speech in the constitution
In the constitution of Bangladesh it stated that every citizen has right to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech can be expressed by printing, writing, signs, gestures and any other mode. The freedom of speech is stated in the constitution for the entire citizen and it is equally applicable for all citizens in Bangladesh. If any oppression takes place it is the duty of all civilized human being to take part in any situation through speech, printing or any other mode. In the constitution Article 39 (1) (2) says that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression. It stated that-
“(1) Freedom of thought and conscience is guaranteed.
(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 speech and expression; and freedom of the
Press, are guaranteed.”
The fundamental principle of the constitution in here is stated that people’s right to know. The right of every citizen of freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed.
Scope of freedom of expression in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a democratic country. In order to have a democracy in place, certain things are expected in a democratic country. Anyone can find perfectly adequate to broadcast pornographic material, while someone else should think that this kind of act have a negative impact on the society. While the Bangladeshi constitution preserves the basic rights of freedom it also defends the rights of the citizen. The Bangladeshi constitution must make use the right of freedom of speech that derives it from the constitution ethically. The people of Bangladesh should understand the fact that they have the right to freedom and expression but at the same time they should understand that they do not violate any civil rights of the people. Bangladesh is one of the best examples for expressing the right freedom of speech.
New Aspects of freedom of expression and speech
The government has no monopoly on electronic media. The Supreme Court has widened the scope and state that government has no monopoly on electronic media and citizen has the right to telecast or broadcast to their viewers through electronic media. They can raise their voice against any oppression. Every citizen has fundamental rights to know and receiving the information through freedom of expression and speech.
Commercial advertisements are another way to express freedom of expression and speech. The commercial advertisements have the right to express their speech. The government can regulate the commercial advertisements which are fake, unfair, misleading and untruthful. The commercial advertisements also protect the right to listen and know about the said speech.
Phone tapping can be an invasion on right to privacy. The Court and the Home Secretary of the center has the right to tap any phone they want. It is a threat to anyone’s personal life. Any citizen can’t talk freely over the phone. If anyone has to tap the phone then the permission of the designated authority has to be taken.
For the proper functioning of the democracy the freedom of press is essential. The growth of print media has changed the journalism in Bangladesh for the last decade. When the military-backed government was in power the pressure from political power was much less. Now the situation is much worse. The electronic media are still in continuous pressure from powerful groups. These groups include businessman as well as political organizations. On the other hand the state owned media like BTV is highly controlled and they worked as a mouthpiece of the government. So the political parties of the government have to understand about the role of media in a democratic country.
The right to freedom of speech and expression
Every country has the right to protect their rights of their citizen. “Human Rights Law” is recognized to protect the citizens of their country for freedom and expression. The right to freedom and expression support of all expression and express their opinion freely. For democracy and political life of every citizen it is necessary to uphold the right of speech of every citizen. Access to information is another right that given by public authorities. Every citizen has the right to know, receive to any information. The media plays a vital role in expressing speech. Media should be free to express any report on conflicts and scrutiny. Exclusion of the media is very severe restrictions from expressing freedom of speech and expression. At the time of election the freedom of expression plays a vital role. At the time of election the duty of the media is to provide balanced information. These call into question whether the media is free from political pressure. The freedom of expression and speech can be restricted to some extent. If there is any involvement for protecting the rights and reputations of others or protect national security, public order, public health or morals then the rights of expression and freedom can be restricted. International and regional bodies have said that such restrictions should only be imposed when there is a risk of any harm to anyone.
Free expression and the Internet
Through the internet has provided new dimensions of life due its instantaneous communication. If anyone on the internet wants to share anything then everyone should keep in mind that they can share them on the internet and also have the right to control the way which they are sharing. There are some misfortunes as well for the internet users. There are people who like to use the internet for abusing the mankind. The internet has informed people about the intellectual and property rights. Freedom of speech means neither to steal nor to claim another one’s speech. The internet has informed the media and community about the copyright issue.
Grounds of Restrictions
Nothing is of unmixed blessings. Every citizen has the right to express his or her speech but he or she should be concerned about the fact that his or her speech should not defame any individuals’ right.
Security of state: It is stated in the constitution that restrictions can be imposed on freedom of expression and speech in case of security alert on the state. If any political parties of the opposition hold any unlawful assembly and political demonstration then the freedom of expression and speech can be restricted.
Public order: Public order means public security, tranquility and safety. If any individual hamper the right of another then the state can restrict the expression of speech. Public order is more than ordinary maintenance of law and order.
Decency or Morality: This section prohibits any distribution or exhibition of any illegal items that hampers the right of freedom of expression and speech.
Defamation: Any statements that hampers a man’s reputation or any inaccurate statement published in the daily newspaper that defame any individuals reputation then the state can restrict the right of freedom and speech to some extent.
Contempt of Court: Judiciary is the fountainhead of justice in Bangladesh. Sometimes press and media are condensed in a way that people can’t define what is right or wrong. Through press and media people can know what the government is doing and on the opposite side government can know what the demand of the people is. The information related to government and judiciary system should be offered with the value of government and judiciary system.
The right of freedom and expression should assure the human rights. Freedom of expression is the basic rights of all human being. The government influences the media and press heavily. Where newspapers reporters go beyond their allowed guidelines they even have to face the consequences. Violent attacks and intimidation by government leaders and political activists are not unusual consequences of news reporting. The right of freedom of expression and speech can be exercised thoroughly but we should keep in mind that no harm takes place to any individual, to any political parties or judiciary systems. Establishments of law and judiciary system can endure freedom of speech. An effective role should be made for freedom of speech and expression. The media and the journalists play an important role in expressing speech. It is unfortunate that in a democratic country that journalists should be sent to prison for their work. The journalists in a democratic country should have their right to write what is good for the mass people.
The right to expression and freedom is one of the most fundamental and important rights. The right to freedom and expression includes that the right to express their views, feel free and responsibly to write, responsibly to telecast through advertisements or through any other communication channels. This fundamental right has vast scope. It also includes the right to the press and the right to information. The court has interpreted the Article 39 and also stated that individual should express their opinion freely but individual should also keep in mind that their expression doesn’t hurt anyone or defame anyone’s reputation.
- International Relations and Security Network, 1972. Constitutions of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh [pdf]. [Online]. Available at: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/research/bangladesh-constitution.pdf [Accessed 14 October 2011]
- Singh. S. n.d. Freedom of Speech and Expression. Available Thorough: National Law University. Website http://www.goforthelaw.com/articles/fromlawstu/article16.htm
 Singh. S. n.d. Freedom of Speech and Expression. Available Thorough: National Law University. Website http://www.goforthelaw.com/articles/fromlawstu/article16.htm
 International Relations and Security Network, 1972. Constitutions of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh [pdf]. [Online]. Available at: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/research/bangladesh-constitution.pdf [Accessed 14 October 2011]