Freedom of Speech

Topics: Human rights, Law, Universal Declaration of Human Rights Pages: 5 (1670 words) Published: June 19, 2013
Freedom of speech

Freedom to speak freely without censorship is what we call freedom of speech. Restrictions on the freedom to speak are sometimes called censorship. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations and restrictions. Our constitution does not define what it means by these rights. Perhaps one could rely on the definitions formulated in other jurisdictions. In addition, national laws of many countries, in various forms, recognize a basic freedom of speech.

The right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) recognizes the right to freedom of speech as "the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression."

European Convention on Human Rights (which was drawn up in 1951) for example has this to say: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers”. This right has been given prominence by the European Court of Human Right when it ruled that, “Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every man…… it is applicable not only to ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favorably received, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no democratic society”.

No one doubt that freedom of expression stands as one of the foundations of a democratic society. To a certain extent the judgments underlines the fact that different societies, within the democratic framework, have different standards of freedom, particularly when it comes to the details of such rights, although there may be common characteristics between those democracies. So the right to free speech is basically what is left after the law has had its say. The law interferes with freedom of expression in two ways: through the imposition of restraints before the communication is made, such as censorship, or through the imposition of punishment on those who have transgressed the restrictions.

We can be able to know whether the problem which we have today is actually something that is inherent in the constitutional structure proposed by the Reid Commission Report undoubtedly this is necessary for future reforms and may serve as a good lesson for other countries. Freedom of Speech is part of what is known as Fundamental Liberties in our Federal Constitution. The commission’s recommendation on this has been vague, particularly on the importance of such rights. It is difficult to understand why the commission devoted only two paragraphs for a chapter which serves as the foundations for the protection of the rights in the country. The White Paper, which reviewed the Reid Commission Report, failed to improve the recommendations on the subject. It seems that the Paper gave matters pertaining to the Conference of Rulers, Islam and Malay privilege more importance than questions on fundamental liberties. In the report, the Reid Commission recommended that

“The rights which we recommend should be defined and guaranteed are all firmly established throughout Malaya and it may seem unnecessary to give them special protection in the Constitution. But we have found in certain quarters vague apprehension about the future. We believe such apprehension to be unfounded, but there can be no objection to guaranteeing these rights subject to limited exceptions in condition of emergency and...
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