Friday, 26 March 2010

Freedom of Speech

This week during training we had a debate that often pops up. The balance between 'freedom of speech' and the right people have not to be harassed and offended or anything that implies some people are worthy of less rights than others.

There is that famous metaphorical illustration that speaks about a cinema and how you could, if you wanted, shout 'fire' and everyone would rush out of the auditorium in response to your call. But in the absence of an actual fire - you would be held responsible for any harm, accidents and/or annoyance you had caused. This illustrates that - yes - you can say something but not without responsibility.

Theorectically, it's simple. We live in a society that generally values the rights of an individual to be free from abuse over the right for others to say absolutely anything they like (e.g. racist comments).

I guess the complications arise in individual circumstances e.g. a piece of art that someone interprets as offensive or a provocative comment about any group of people. Then I guess it is important to interpret between intention and interpretation, facts and opinions.

All isms are just misguided opinions that view others with less rights after all aren't they? Now that's another thought. Typical. I'll have to do more thinking. And on Friday too.


  1. The term Freedom of Speech has now been taken over in the UK by the more modern phrase of Freedom of Expression.

    And you need to consult the latest Law either 2005 or 2009,? I am a bit rusty, as am an ex-Pat for over 20 yrs :-)

  2. OK let's learn....Wiki says....
    Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak without censorship and/or limitation. The synonymous term freedom of expression is sometimes used to indicate not only freedom of verbal speech but any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as on "hate speech".

    The right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The 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".[1][2] Furthermore freedom of speech is recognized in European, inter-American and African regional human rights law.

    It is different from and not to be confused with the concept of freedom of thought.

  3. Have had a brief look but cannot find the law you refer to....what's does is say? Last thing I read about freedom of speech wasn't that old - linked to teaching controversial and sensitive issues.

  4. As I admitted dates were wrong ;-) So!

    Its now called freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act 2000.And is covered by article 10.

    Article 10: Freedom of Expression

    (1) Everyone has the right of freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without inference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

    (2) The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

  5. Which is what my post says no?

    The right to freedom of expression/speech but with conditions.

    Why do you feel I need to consult it? Please explain.

  6. At the school disco earlier, one of the boys was doing a ... MJ-ish risque crotch thrusting move! I said "There's no need for that!" jokily and he replied "It's freedom of speech!"

  7. The classic principle of liberalism is that we should all be free to do as we please - in so far as it does not restrict the freedoms of others. The same largely goes for free speech / expression.

    A recently highlighted problem has been the conflict between freedom of speech and the potential to cause offence, particularly to religious or minority groups - it often occurs in art, but can equally be a problem with TV commentators.


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