Freedom of Expression
In 2008 Sir Ken Macdonald, QC, the then Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) gave a speech on Free Expression and the Rule of Law at the Birmingham Law School, remarking that:
“An opinion, in and of itself, cannot be criminal. Ever. Just as the law should not attack thought, it should also be slow to proscribe speech or expression simply because it is capable of causing offence. If you want to be able to say things that others don’t like or find challenging, you need to be willing to hear things that you don’t like”.
Modern mediums of communication, especially the euphemistically termed ‘social – media’ (of which this medium is a part) expose us all to what many consider to be the abuse of free expression. It is paradoxical that the Human Rights Act 1998, in guaranteeing the freedom of expression, enshrined in Article 10 of the ECHR, is now regularly used in attempts to curb this freedom.
Vested interests voice their moral outrage over those opinions that they disagree with, in blatant attempts to curb legitimate freedom of expression, to the point of seeking to curb freedom of thought. In this they are invariably encouraged by a legislature who, for supine political purposes, invariably acquiesce to these attacks on those freedoms supposedly guaranteed in law.
At its most extreme, this social – media has spawned graffitists, who mostly hide behind the anonymity this media provides. Who proselytize their opinions, without any understanding of what ‘freedom of expression’ affords them. Like graffitists their offerings range from the very good to the very bad. In strict graffiti terms, a Banksy, is rare and even the more prolific ‘Kilroy was here’ usually lacks its humour.
Perhaps graffiti is a bad allusion, such proselytisms are more like digitized poison pen letters, or digitized notes attached to digitized bricks, to be thrown through unsuspecting digitized windows. The social-media digitized equivalent of an improvised explosive device (IED) that is deliberately intended to hurt, maim or kill the recipient. Where the originator of such missives breaks the law, they are protected from the law by the anonymity that the social-media affords them.
Despite this, I would maintain that social-media is more a medium for good than evil. Yet the voices of those vested interests, however unintentional, in seeking to suppress ‘freedom of expression’, provide succour to the ubiquitous political wish for control and direction over such freedom.
“Free speech isn’t just the freedom to be nice. This is an essential aspect of democracy. The most effective way of dispelling ignorance and prejudice is through free speech”.
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