For a while now this phrase has been tossed around; to a quiet spectator, it appears that this Right has been misunderstood.
This concept emerged during the 5th century BC in the ancient Athens’ democratic ideology and continued to become a phenomenon through the 17th and 18th century, till today it is the object of our perception.
So let us actually assess this privilege that so few in history could enjoy. The United Declaration of Human Rights 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”.
After this ideology was tested they amended it to include, ‘the exercise of these rights carries special duties and responsibilities” and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals”.
One can judge by this example alone that ‘Freedom of speech’ is not a simple idea. There have been countless disagreements about how one perceives it.
The world is full of extremes; negative as well as positive connotations can be attached to an image of a flower. They can represent joy at a birthday and sorrow at a funeral.
Hence, the perception of this right can also be diametrically opposite. The Bible was advocated by both the slaves as well as the slave owners. The internet is both, bad as well as a good place. What really matters is how we use it. The Right to Express, Bible and the internet are only concepts, how they are perceived is what matters.
Countless people have sacrificed their lives over this Bill. It was an arduous fight and a ceremonious victory. The least we can do to express our gratitude is to understand it well. To actually pay attention to what our opinion is, how informed and verified it is, what it aims to achieve and whether it hurts anyone inessentially.
In spite of careful consideration, there will still be disagreements. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the opposite side is mischievous; it only means that the debate can be better informed.
Freedom of Speech is a right as well as a duty. Our opinion matters but only if it is just and fair. If we are unsure of our argument, our duty is to strengthen this argument with the truth.
“Opinions are like assholes, everyone has got one”.
Having said that, if our opinion is carefully formed with as little bias as possible and as much information as possible then it deserves to be heard. At this point, no government regulation or society’s sanction can obstruct our liberty of expression.