How important is free speech for a democratic society? Does John Stuart Mill make a good case for free speech? Under what condition, if any, might free speech be restricted according to John Stuart Mill and to Matthew Kieran? Argue for your answer, and illustrate with relevant cases and examples in Singapore. Introduction
In most democratic countries, the freedom of saying what you like, of criticizing the authorities, and of discussing ideas without fear, is a basic importance. Within a sense of this matter, John Stuart Mill devoted most of his acclaimed portrayal in his book On Liberty (1985). This essay aims to outline the scope and limitations of free speech. Therefore, with reference to Mill’s ideas, the essay will explain why free speech is important for a democratic society and show how Mill made a case for free speech. Furthermore, it will also argue when free speech needs to be restricted with Mill and Kieran’s arguments.
Free speech and Democracy
Democracy is a system of government in which the opinions of the citizens of a nation is taken into account when determining public policy, the laws and actions of the state. In this system of government, all the citizens have an equal opportunity to express their opinion and they are supreme and sovereign who control the government. (Christiano, 2006; Palekar, n.d.).
Spagnoli (2009) considered democracy as “a power struggle”. The contributors in this struggle have to be allowed to take part in the political program with freedom to express themselves. This is why democracy requires free speech. Basically, free speech means “the ability to express opinions and ideas without impediments particularly the threat of being punished for doing do” (Cuizon, 2009). It is a universal right of each and every person and its value should never be underestimated. The contributors in the power struggle also have to be allowed to affiliate and organize in a group without government control, because as a collective group, their voices are more prominent and powerful. Thus freedom of association and separation of state and society are absolutely necessary for them. Moreover, they also have to be able to assemble and demonstrate so that they can persuade more people to join them and they can only achieve this through free speech. The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore as well recognizes the importance of free speech. According to the Article 14(1) of the constitution, “every citizens of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression, to assemble peaceably without arms, and to form association” (The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, 1999). This can be seen in the case in year 2008 where Dr. Chee Soon Juan and his political party went to protest outside Parliament to draw attention to the topic of inflation in Singapore. However, they were indicated for violating the Miscellaneous Offences Act for assembling peacefully without a permit. Chee claimed that they are innocent under the Singapore constitution to enjoy the guarantees of freedom of expression (Cooper, 2008). However, in spite of the guarantees of freedom of expression, as laid out in the Article 14, free speech put through Clause (2) which specifies that Parliament may by law compel:
(a) on the rights conferred by clause (1) (a), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or to provide against contempt of court defamation or incitement to any violence (Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, 1999).
Singapore is unique in the sense that its Constitution's Article 14, which is the restriction on freedom of expression, meaning the right to freedom of expression is downgraded to a lesser role. Therefore, the freedom of expression is not...