Freedom of Expression and Democracy
This week on Facebook: 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. This is something I briefly covered in my post State Surveillance.
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. Proselytisms that are more like digitised poison pen letters and where the originator breaks the law, they are often protected from the law by the anonymity that the social-media affords them. This is something I briefly covered in my post Social Media — A Hall of Mirrors.
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 a 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”. Free Expression and the Rule of Law
State driven censorship that curbs free expression is not a new phenomenon, it has always existed and continues to do so. The new phenomena is the ever increasing global use of social media to propagate individual thoughts that instigate abuse of others in the name of free expression and crossing international boundaries where it is immune from national laws.
“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”.
Monday New York State Senator Introduces Unconstitutional, Anti-Free Speech Legislation (2016): It seems everywhere you turn, U.S. politicians at all levels of government are incessantly scheming to figure out ways to further erode the civil liberties of the American public.
Tuesday About free expression: Free expression is a universal human right enshrined in Article 19 of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Wednesday Internet access is now a human right – Chips with Everything tech podcast trailer (2016): On 1 July, the United Nations resolved that internet access is to be considered a basic human right. In light of that decision, we’re producing a series of four episodes to explore, among other things, what the world might look like if every human being had access to the World Wide Web. The first episode in the series is coming next week.
Thursday Democracy thrives on free speech (2015): Yet it is also a right denied to many millions who live under oppressive regimes, and among the most precious because it can be too easily lost, perhaps through overly zealous restrictions by the state or because, as individuals, we fear being criticised for our views or becoming a target of retaliation.
Friday Where the world sees limits to free speech (2015): A new survey of people in 38 countries finds that for many provocative forms of speech, such as sexually explicit statements or calls for violent protests, most people draw a line between protected speech and speech that goes too far. And compared with the rest of the world, Americans generally are more accepting of free speech of any kind.
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