Freedom of expression or speech is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights under Article 19 and is a human right. Article 19 states that freedom of speech is a law that supports a community’s or an individual’s freedom to express their ideas and views without fear of legal sanction, censorship, or retaliation (“Article 10”). In situations involving such institutions as the media, the article amends these freedoms and expresses that the rights contain special responsibilities and duties. Therefore, freedom may be restricted for national security and to protect the reputation of the public. As a consequence, free speech is not an absolute right and such boundaries as classified information, trade secrets, food labeling, and slander are restricted. The speech limitation further uses the “offense principle” to justify its reach (Kendrick 667). The principle additionally describes the restrictions declared offensive in the community. As the world continues to advance, new means of communication continue to emerge. Consequently, more controversies continually arise concerning the restrictions surrounding the freedom of expression. However, free speech is a vital part of society because it allows for the freedom of the media in disseminating information and protects individuals’ right to freedom of speech and expression.
Freedom of expression is important because it protects the media, particularly in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, individuals have been living in seclusion for more than nine months. As a result, there has been an alteration in the daily lives of people and a decline in the economy of these countries. For the longest time, there has been a reliance on the media to disseminate information on how the government is handling the pandemic and news on how to manage the virus. Furthermore, the community depends on the media to find out how they can protect themselves more effectively. Thus, freedom of expression is an essential part of the media. If this law was not in place, people would have difficulty accessing reliable information. As a result, they would not know what to do when it comes to handling the pandemic due to a lack of communication from the media. Therefore, freedom of the media is an essential part of the first amendment and plays an important role in disseminating information.
Freedom of expression is vital in developing stronger democracies by creating informed voters. Democratic communities depend on the individuals being in the capacity of holding their viewpoints and being able to express them (Index on Censorship). In society, individuals must be able to ask the government various questions on matters concerning decisions that affect them. In this case, freedom of speech forms a fundamental part of the process of democracy. The right ensures that community members can debate contentious issues and discuss and exchange ideas. Because free speech is a human right, it allows communities and people to find important information which they could share with others without fear of reprisals or censorship. Public debates and the media act as channels for supporting the development of informed voters and citizens.
Freedom of expression plays a role in encouraging fair elections, which in turn results in much better democracies. For individuals to find out whom to vote for, they need accurate information. Because of freedom of expression, institutions, parties, and people now have great power (Gonchar). For this reason, it is the responsibility of the media to provide accurate information and critique leaders without any discrimination. When elections are close, the role of the media becomes amplified. Nevertheless, when these elections are nearing, often powerful individuals attempt to affect the results of these elections. They do this by limiting the information to reach the public. Freedom of speech plays an essential function in democratic participation. The right influences all forms of media including campaign adverts and social media. By freeing voters to make informed decisions and to speak freely concerning important topics, freedom of speech makes democracy stronger.
Freedom of speech is crucial when it comes to discovering the truth. In the case of Venezuela, the situation of the medial has gotten worse because the cogenment controls most of its content (Ecoi.net). Quality journalists are those individuals who are not afraid to ask tough questions, follow challenging stories and report accurate news without limitations (Gonchar). Through skill, energy, and time dedication to researching new information in the world, the public can receive important information from a free press. Credible information is an important tool for public debate. In this case, it helps individuals form shared values and further influences policies at international, national, and local levels. Through investigative journalism, individuals can receive updated information from around the world. In the United States, investigative journalism researches unscrupulous leaders and reveals this information to the public. After the truth is uncovered, the public will be able to decide from an informed point of view. Therefore, freedom of speech protects and supports the media’s capacity to freely report and research on behalf of the public.
Freedom of expression allows for an independent press that is capable of holding powerful interests accountable. Sunlight is regarded as the greatest disinfectant. When the media is free, it uses its light to discover hidden topics and offer vital balances and checks on powerful institutions and people (Jamil 572). Often, accurate media institutions are not flattering, however, the wealthy and powerful must be held to account. Once the information reaches the public, scrutiny develops, which, in turn, discourages abuses of human rights and corruption. For example, during President Donald Trump’s tenure, he came into public scrutiny for passing a bill that led to the separation of children from their parents. Therefore, truths uncovered by investigative journalists can enhance international standards of human rights, change international policies and topple governments (Ecoi.net). An independent press aids decrease bad governance and promote transparency. Freedom of speech governs the rights of news outlets, bloggers, and reporters to speak critically.
If the freedom of expression was lacking, reporting would also be restricted. The press faces two choices in situations where there is no freedom of expression. These institutions can either be quiet or risk telling the truth. When the press is unable to report the whole truth concerning a topic, the public cannot participate in informed decision-making (Jamil 8). Countries that restrict freedom of speech by the press only allow them to convey stories that align with their political ideologies. As a result, in most cases, the media is censored, thereby conveying wrong information to the public. Furthermore, in areas where freedom of speech is limited, the people are not able to speak or express their ideologies freely. As a result, they are forced to be quiet because they fear that there might be some reparations. Some individuals might be brave and try to express their opinions; however, they risk prison sentences, violence, legal cases, or fines. When a country or community respects the freedom of speech, the nation will function properly and the media will report accurate information.
The law of free speech is also vital as it provides other human rights with a platform. The right underpins numerous human rights either indirectly or directly. Freedom of expression can illuminate such abuses of human rights as interference with the land of indigenous people, persecution of LGBTI, and torture (Gonchar). If there were reports about cases of abuses of human rights, the world would not know about their existence. As a result, these cases continue to happen with impunity. Through free speech, people can hold admirations accountable, tell their scenarios, and help advocates in solving their cases. In addition to access to information, individuals are also free to assemble. The right enables people to participate actively in civil society, due to which their opinions will be heard. In a society with freedom of expression or speech, individuals can participate in such events as social gatherings, public protests, and boycotts. These can in turn be televised, with the press acting as the public watchdog in bringing contentious problems to the light. Therefore, freedom of speech provides a platform for other rights that may go unnoticed.
Freedom of expression provides a means through which minority and marginalized issues are heard. There are higher chances for voices of minority and marginalized communities to be excluded from mainstream discourses. Through freedom of speech, groups and individuals have the right to tell their accounts without fear of violence or censorship (Gonchar). An enhanced representation can aid the improvement of understanding and promote the creation of better discussions and a society that is more connected. Furthermore, free speech helps a vast majority of marginalized or minority voices and causes to be heard. Freedom of expression includes such groups as religious groups, LGBTI society, and women’s rights groups. The right also proved individuals the right to voice their viewpoints despite going against the status quo or being unpopular. These individuals are free to contribute to any issue in the community from home care services to environmental issues. The rule ensures individuals can defend themselves and others as well.
Apart from protecting the media, freedom of speech includes comedy, academia, and art. In Brazil, courts are imposing huge damages in terms of compensation to individuals opposing the right to ridicule in newspapers and comedy (Macedo Junior 275). Individuals are free to study such subjects as fine arts and political science because free speech entails the right to artistic, critical, and analytical engagement. In education, the most important factors include the capacity to debate points and ideas and discuss these points and freedom of thought. To create thoughts that help comprehend an individual’s past, present, and future, it is vital that the institutions, groups, and people can produce theories, concepts, and opinions without fear of negative consequences (Oltmann 155). From the visual arts and theater, literature to satirical cartoons and stand-up comedy: freedom of speech plays a fundamental role in creating a vibrant and healthy culture of art.
Freedom of expression eliminates situations involving compelled deeds. According to research, the government cannot compel an individual to perform certain actions in a country with freedom of speech (Ecoi.net). Individuals have control of what to express and how the expressed words are viewed by the rest of the community. In situations where the government alters what a person says, they still have the chance to address the issue and amend the errors made. Furthermore, the right restricts the need for a person to behave in a particular manner. In today’s world, some individuals hold the opinion that some speeches should be banned due to their offensive nature. For example, some people find the positive stance of same-sex marriages offensive. Freedom of speech allows a person to have their opinion concerning certain issues. How they express themselves is also entirely up to them. As a result, people are freer to express their views because of freedom of expression.
The other importance of freedom of speech is that it enables peaceful change within a community. In society, some individuals utilize this freedom to insight hatred or violence. However, others use it to develop the possibility of peaceful change. When individuals provide facts while administering their views to the community, they may persuade the community to consider their point of view (Gonchar). When individuals use this type of approach, they are less likely to use violence or hatred to influence a change. The process takes time; however, it is the most efficient way to impact the changing process. Furthermore, people have the opportunity to challenge hate in the community through freedom of expression. According to human activist Peter Tatchell, the best way for society to move forward is through challenging individuals with varying views. However, he did not mean allowing bigots to express themselves without being challenged. Contrarily, freedom of speech includes the moral obligation to protest, oppose, and challenge bigoted views. The best way to defeat terrible ideologies is by utilizing worthy ideas backed by reason and ethics instead of censorship or bans.
Freedom of speech is also significant because it advances a society’s knowledge. In a society, people have the right to ask essential questions, which advances their knowledge on contentious issues. Consequently, individuals have the freedom to suggest, influence, and discover different policies necessary within the society. Individuals are also free to share information, thereby leading to more inventions in society. According to research, Thomas Edison had more than 950 ideas concerning the invention of the bulb. For him, each unsuccessful idea was a step in the right direction (Index on Censorship). Therefore, freedom of expression plays an important part in the advancement of the community.
Freedom of speech is vital because of its important role in media freedom and among individuals. The right forms a fundamental ground for other human rights, such as abuses and LGBTI rights. Furthermore, it plays a significant role in uncovering hidden information essential for the public. Consequently, individuals can make informed decisions which then promote democracy. In this case, people are to choose their leaders wisely. Furthermore, freedom of speech promotes peaceful transitioning of the community without using violence. Individuals could not be coerced into making speeches they do not represent and also have the freedom to correct their stance if it was interfered with. From this, it is clear that society cannot exist without freedom of speech.
“Article 10: Freedom of Expression | Equality and Human Rights Commission.” Equality and Human Rights Commission, vol. 12, 2020, Web.
Ecoi.net. “Freedom House: “Freedom of the Press 2017 – Venezuela”, 2017, Web.
Gonchar, Michael. “Why Is Freedom of Speech an Important Right? When, if Ever, Can It Be Limited?” The New York Times, 2018, Web.
Index on Censorship. “Why is Free Speech Important?” Index on Censorship, 2018, Web.
Jamil, Sadia. “Safety Threats, Impunity and Professionalism: Journalists’ Dilemma in Pakistan.” Sociology and Anthropology, vol. 6, no. 7, 2018, pp. 7-15.
Kendrick, Leslie. “The ‘Speech’ in ‘Freedom of Speech’.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2017, p. 667.
Macedo Junior, Ronaldo Porto. “Freedom of Expression: what lessons should we learn from US experience?” Revista Direito GV, vol. 13 no.1, 2017, pp. 274-302.
Oltmann, Shannon M. “Intellectual Freedom and Freedom of Speech: Three Theoretical Perspectives.” The Library Quarterly, vol. 86, no. 2, 2016, pp. 153-171.