Freedom of speech and expression which happens to be a natural right is acquired by a human beings on birth. It happens to be a basic right and is supposed to be the first condition of liberty. It occupies a primordial position in the hierarchy of the liberty. Freedom of speech and expression implies that an individual has the right to accord expression to his own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. To put it in a nutshell it connotes the expression of one’s ideas through any communicable medium or visible representation, such as, gesture, sighs and the like.1 It is widely regarded in the modern times that the right to freedom of speech is the defining feature of a free society and it must be safeguarded at all time and at all costs.
Free speech rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution are the bedrock of our democracy. Any democratic society must place freedom of speech as the cornerstone of all civil liberties. Freedom of speech rights afford citizens the ability to voice their concerns without repercussions from an oppressive government. On the one hand, this sentiment led the founding fathers of this great nation to establish the right to freely criticize the government, should that government become tyrannical. On the other hand, the same civil liberties that allow citizens to freely express their concerns against the government, are the same rights that allow them to express themselves through hateful messages against some sections of the population.
‘Right to Know’ – a Fundamental Right One of the basic features of a flourished democratic nation is the bestowing of right to know on its citizen. Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India impliedly covers ‘right to know’. In S.P. Gupta v. Union of India , it was held that right to know is implicit in the right of free speech and expression. Disclosure of information regarding functioning of the Government must be the rule.
It occupies an very important arrangement in the hierarchy of the liberty. The liberty of freedom of speech and expression means to express one’s own right in a free and unbiased manner which is important in the development of the human being as a human being. It is fairly and factually said that the freedom of speech and expression is the mother of all freedoms and liberties. In the present modern times it is extensively accepted that the right to freedom of speech and expression is the soul of free society and must be protected at all
What is freedom of speech? Freedom of speech is the right to express or communicate an individual’s ideas, views and opinions without any obstructions or fear of punishment. It is not limited to speech alone, and includes written and other forms of communication such as freedom of press which gives one the right to question, criticize and voice their opinions. Freedom of speech (or expression) is a fundamental human right which is also recognized by the constitution of India. The constitution of India guarantees individual rights which are stated in articles 19, 20, 21 and 22.
The freedom of speech and expression in a democracy throws open channels of free discussion of issues pertaining to public interest. The freedom of speech and expression plays a paramount role in the formation of public opinion relating to matters of social, political and economic importance. The Supreme Court of India, along with equality clause and the guarantee of life and liberty, has very broadly construed the Freedom of speech and expression, right from the 1950s. It has been variously described as a “basic human right”, “a natural right”. The freedom of speech and expression ensures Liberty to one and all to propagate his or her views without the fear of inviting punishment albeit with certain restrictions.
The right to freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution. Restrictions on the exercise of this right are found in Article 19(2) that can be enforced by the State and are in the interests of sovereignty and integrity of the state, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offense. When conflict between the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy comes in consideration, traditionally there has always been a question about the relative weight of privacy and expression. One of the significant features of a democracy is that it values a person 's right to express opinions even when it is in conflict with another 's right to privacy. At the same time, restrictions like national security or public interest can detract from both expression and privacy.
As human beings, we are all born with an entitlement of freedom of speech or synonymously known as freedom of expression as it is a basic human right. It is stated in the Federal Constitution and it is important for us human beings to protect our rights to freedom of speech and expression as it is the backbone for a democratic society. Having the right to express oneself freely without any restrictions is an essential part of what it means to be a free human being. Article 10 in the Federal Constitution states that; (a) every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression; (b) all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms; (c) all citizens have the right to form associations. As Malaysian citizens, besides having the right to say and express whatever we want, we also have the right to assemble peaceably and we also have the right to form associations however it also being stated in Article 10 (2) (a) (b) (c) that the parliament has the right to impose restrictions on these rights.
A free press is not an optional extra in a democracy.”15 The freedom of speech and expression is regarded as the first condition of liberty.17 The Preamble of the Constitution of India itself secures, to the people, the liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. Free speech is one of the most coveted fundamental rights in the world. In India, the freedom of speech and expression is protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. This is part of the basic fundamental rights. Though the Indian Constitution does not use the expression “freedom of press” in Article 19, but it has been included in one of the guarantees in Article 19(1) (a).
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations and The European Convention on Human Rights (1950), Article 10 guarantees free expression, almost exactly the same way: Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. In the second half of the twentieth century, the freedom of expression is gradually coming up to two new freedoms: freedom of media and freedom of access to information. Under modern conditions, freedom of media, as derived human right, includes: the right to truthful and objective information and the right to publicly, to criticize and seek explanations in relation to specific procedures and acts of