The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal declaration of Human right and recognized in international human rights law in the International covenant on civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Discuss
Human rights are those rights which can be claimed by any person for the very reason that he is a human being. These rights come with birth and are applicable to all people around the world irrespective of their race, sex, color, language or political or other opinion. When certain human rights are written in the constitution of a specific country and protected through constitutional guarantees, those rights are called Fundamental right. The main objective of including fundamental rights in the constitution is not to make them unalterable. The main object is that they cannot be taken away by ordinary process of law making. They are placed beyond the reach of executive and the legislative to act in violation on them. Among all the fundamental right one of the most important is Freedom of expression.
Freedoms of expression means freedom of speak freely. Freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal declaration of Human right and recognized in international human rights law in the International covenant on civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). 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”.
Importance of freedom of expression:
Development and progress of a democratic society cannot be possible without Freedom of expression. There should be right entitled to each and every human being in the democratic society to have free access to information and express their opinion about any problem arising in the society or in the country. Freedom of expression provides the citizens with the right to participate to common life as a supporter and ensures their capacity to contribute in action and improvement of institutional organizations that serve the public welfare.
Freedom of expression is the most important political right of the citizen. Without free speech, no political action is possible and no battle to injustice is possible. Without free speech elections would have become meaningless. Policies of competitors become known to the public and become open to public opinion only by good quality of free speech. Between elections the freely expressed opinions of citizens help to control unfair rule. Without this freedom it is useless to expect political freedom or, consequently, economic freedom. Thus freedom of speech is the outcomeof a democratic society.
Restriction on Freedom of Expression:
There are two types of fundamental right. One is Absolute right and other is Right on which reasonable restriction can be imposed. Freedom of expression is under the second type of fundamental right. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to restrictions, such as on libel, slander, obscenity, incitement to commit a crime, etc. Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities” and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “for respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “for the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals”. Absolute advantage can cause chaos, anarchy and damage in the society. On the other hand, if the absolute power to choose public liberty is in the hand of the state government that will result dictatorship. So for the public welfare restriction should be imposed on the Freedom of expression.
Article 39 of Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, which is common to India and other common law country, clearly state regarding the Freedom of Expression or speech- 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-
· The right of every citizen of freedom of speech and expression; and
· Freedom of the press, are guaranteed.
I. Security of the state: For the sake of the state’s security reasonable restriction can be imposed on Freedom of expression. Any activities like- crimes of violence intended to overthrow the government, waging of war and rebellion against the government, external aggression or war which can put question mark over the security of that the state should be restricted.Security of the state should not be mixed with breaking of public order because it does not involve any danger to the state.
II. Friendly relation with foreign state: State can impose reasonable restriction over the freedom of expression, if that particular speech can endanger the friendly relation of the state with the other foreign country. In recent time Bangladesh Government has imposed a restriction on a photo exhibition which can possibly harm the good relationship with China.
III. Public Order: The term ‘public order’ means the sense of public peace, safety and harmony. Any statement that effect peace and public harmony disturbs public order. But a mere statement against the government not necessarily disturbs public order. It is under the term “Security of the state”. Any statement that hurt the feelings of religion of any class of people or any racial hate speech can disturb public order. So restriction can be imposed on any statement which disturbs public order.
IV. Decency or morality: Government can impose reasonable restriction freedom of expression if that speech or expression is against politeness and ethics of the country. If a statement or speech or any publication find with the tendency to corrupt the mind which are open to such immoral influences’ can be restricted. In a case the Court upheld the conviction of a book seller who was prosecuted for selling and keeping the book “The Lady Chatterley’s Lover” which is against the morality of the country. The standard of morality varies from time to time and from place to place.
V. In relation to contempt of court: The constitutional right to freedom of speech would not allow a person to disrespect the courts. Contempt of court is a court order which, in the context of a court trial or hearing, declares a person or organization to have disobeyed or been disrespectful of the court‘s authority. Often referred to simply as “contempt,” such as a person “held in contempt,” it is the judge‘s strongest power to impose sanctions for acts which disrupt the court’s normal process. A finding of contempt of court may result from a failure to obey a lawful order of a court, showing disrespect for the judge, disruption of the proceedings through poor behavior, or publication of material deemed likely to jeopardize a fair trial. A judge may impose sanctions such as a fine or jail for someone found guilty of contempt of court.
VI. Defamation or incitement: Any statement that affects the reputation of another person will be termed under defamation. Freedom expression can be restricted,if any statements injure the reputation of another person.
Freedom of expression can also be restricted if any statement incites people to commit offence.
If we find any statement, speech or expression against all the factors discussed earlier and impose restriction on that statement, restriction will be a relevant fact. But if we put restriction on a statement which is not violating any rule or restriction regarding Freedom of expression that will be irrelevant and void.
From my point of view I think Freedom of expression is on the most important fundamental right of the entire Human being. Development of the society and fight against injustice will become impossible without Freedom of expression. But it is also necessary to put restriction on this fundamental right. Too much freedom of expression can end up with anarchy, chaos in the society, which can damage the society. Any Statement can hamper friendly relationship with foreign country, security of the state, public order, morality etc and rise a big problem for the country. To solve these serious problems we have to follow the above restriction. Otherwise that would become a big problem for us.
There is no doubt that freedom of expression is one of the essential foundations of democracy and it is important for the development and protection of other human rights.
However, as for the interests of others or for the public benefit, the exercise of these freedoms may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties. But in today’s world I think we need much more tolerance, understanding and harmony than the restrictions. We will not need any limitations, if we show proper respect for rights and sensibilities of others.
There are still wars, conflicts and so many problems in all over the world and the only solution is learning to live together and in piece. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Nobody can choose his nationality or even his religion and has the rights only because he is a human being. Unfortunately, there will be always a need for limitations on our rights and freedoms unless we understand that clearly.
1. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by UN General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966, entry into force 23 March 1976
2. Article 29(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
3. Bangladesh’s sovereignty and China. Retrieved from http://shadakalo.blogspot.com/2009/11/bangladeshs-sovereignty-and-china.html
4. Contempt of court. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contempt_of_court
5. Defamation. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation
6. Dr. M. Cooray, ‘The Importance of Freedom of Expression’ (An explanation of the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of association and how they are being eroded in Australia in 1996.) Retrieved from http://www.ourcivilisation.com/cooray/btof/chap211.htm
7. English case of R. v. Hicklin LR 3 QB 360.
8.Freedom of speech. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech
9. Halim, Md. Abdul. (1998, February) Constitution, Constitutional Law and politics: Bangladesh Perspective. Dhaka: Sams Publication, 95
10. Incitement. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incitement
11. Om Prakash v. Emperor, AIR 1948 Nag, 199
12. Raj Bahadur Gond v. State of Hyderabad, AIR 1953 Hyd 277.
13. Ramjilal Modi v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1957 SC 622; 1957 SCR 860.
14. Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1965 SC 881
15. Religious Intolerance and the Incitement of Hatred. Retrieved from http://www.religioustolerance.org/rel_hate.htm
16. Romesh Thapar v. State of Madras, AIR 1950 SC 124.
17. State of Bihar v. Shailabala Devi, AIR 1952 SC 329.