Georgia Reporter

July 25, 2011

How Valuable Freedom of Speech Is

Freedom is something that all men want to have. No one would want to be trapped into doing something that is against his will. Throughout history, man has always placed a lot of value on the freedom to choose for himself and the freedom to express what he wants either through writing, through speech, and even through art.

The value of freedom of speech has always been emphasized. In fact many of the world’s greatest leaders fought wars just to preserve the freedom to express oneself honestly and openly. As prevalent as the fight for freedom of speech are the efforts of many men to inhibit other people from exhibiting and practicing this right.

Today, freedom of speech is alternatively referred to as the freedom for experience. Majority of the governments from all over the globe have implemented laws and regulations to safeguard this basic human right. However there are certain limitations to how a person can express himself. There are even instances wherein a person is inhibited from exercising this right. Congress has established certain approved scenarios where this can be implemented. One of the things that should be remembered is that the right to self-expression does not only relate with speaking but with writing as well.

The expression of freedom of speech can also be through other means such as through singing of songs, playing of certain types of music, the promotion of ideals, and through wearing statement shirts or clothing. The last one may be very familiar since a lot of people wear shirts with largely emblazoned text on the front which may be used to convey one’s emotions for the day or one’s belief. This is the reason why politicians during election time give away shirts, caps, armbands, and other types of clothing with their names printed on such materials.

Being given the freedom to express oneself and one’s belief does not mean that he can say whatever he wants or do whatever he wants to do anytime he wants to without regard for others who may be affected. An example of this is when one keeps on shouting obscene words in a very public place such as in a mall or in a movie theatre. What one says or do should be done with respect to others. It should be hate speech towards certain races, sex, and age. Another thing which one has to control is the telling of false stories especially when this could ruin other people’s reputation. If one does this, then he might be charged with an offense which is punishable by law and this is called libel or defamation of character.

On the other hand, one has to consider that “freedom of speech” means basically nothing if we’re only talking about popular speech. Nobody would ever contest your right to profess your appreciation for ice cream, or post your own insanity Workout review online. In fact, some would argue that the most unpopular and offensive forms of expression are the ones most in need of defense, as well as the benchmarks by which we gauge how truly free we are.

The right to have freedom of speech is very important due to a number of reasons. First of all, it helps encourage the expression of beliefs and ideas which is where the concept of democracy is firmly based on. Because of this, democratic organizations and governments are preserved. It also impresses on democratic government leaders the need to be always truthful and tolerant of what others think. It also helps broaden the understanding not only of those in government positions but most important to the ordinary citizen.

The Building Up of the Value Freedom of Speech

In order to fully understand what freedom of speech means, there is a need to understand the laws that support, promote, and protect the freedom of expression. The First Amendment is essentially what provides depth to the right to freely express oneself.

American history tells us that those who first settled in the place are the ones who initially sought freedom of speech for all people. Back then, they wanted to have the free will to choose what they believe and what religion they participate in. They wanted to be able to have free rein on their beliefs whether or not these may be aligned with those of in high positions of a community. However, if it will be referred on the development of freedom of speech in the actual constitution, it can be determined from the year 1735 during a certain man’s trial. His name was John Peter Zenger and he was actually an immigrant from Germany who at that time was working as publishing officer in a Colonial new spreadsheet. Zenger was tried because he published an article on the newspaper he worked for called the Weekly Journal. The article contained words that were not that good for the reputation of William Cosby who at that time was the governor of New York. The governor made it his mission to put an end to Zenger’s inflammatory comments by handing out threats of suing the writer for the act of libel. He finally proceeded to charging Zenger with sedition. The writer was arrested for these charges and was put in trial in 1735. The court found him not guilty and he was acquitted from the charges. It was then when the significance of preserving the freedom of speech was emphasized to the whole of America.

In the year 1776, the significance of freedom of expression was further emphasized by the Virginia Declaration of Rights. This put into ink the call for the right of all citizens to practice the freedom of press which should not in any way be stopped by any government. A man named George Mason was instrumental on why this law was passed. In addition, he also served as inspiration for the creation of different bills of right in several states as well as for the French government’s declaration of the rights of every citizen.

Another person who played a crucial role in the promotion of the freedom of speech or expression is a man named James Madison. He was a man named James Madison and he was the one responsible for creating the first draft of the Bill of Rights. This bill contained two amendments that had a very significant on the freedom of expression. One of the amendments stated that a citizen should in no way be stripped of the right to express his sentiment through spoken and written words. The second amendment stated that no state will have the right to restrict, retain, or violate the people and the press’ free will to express their opinions.

Freedom of expression extends to every type of media in which opinions and the thoughts of individual and / or organizations can be offered. Recently, the internet has become a powerhouse for the rights of people to practice freedom of speech. Personal blog such as Beppe Grillo, consumer report sites such as these no no hair removal reviews and the increased presence of curated and editorialized news content such as The Huffington Post are just some examples of freedom of expression being practiced on the internet.

Limitations and Exceptions to the Right for Freedom of Speech

The freedom of expression is something that is enjoyed by many individuals. It includes not only what is spoken. It does not even have to necessarily involve the use of any words. It could be through the use of symbols or art. All of these are kept safe by the First Amendment.

There has been some concern regarding what can be considered as protected speech and what is not. This is especially true in the case of artistic and symbolic expression which includes pictures, movies, music, and paintings. As many people say, with freedom comes responsibility and this remains true with the right to free expression. The courts have identified certain exceptions to the First Amendment. These things have been considered exceptions because they are possibly harmful to the public. It is indeed very important for one not only to know what these exceptions are but also to gain basic understanding on each of them. It is also important to note that some of the things that are protected by the First Amendment may contradict the deeply set cultural values of a community.

Defamation is one of the exceptions to the right of freedom of speech. This is a false statement in the guise of being factual which has a negative effect on another individual’s reputation. This means that a person’s right to express himself is limited if what he expresses whether written or spoken will harm another person. This is an act that is punishable by law. For written words, one can be charged with libel and for spoken words, one can be charged with slander. In some cases, defamation can be very hard to prove in court especially since a person is entitled to have his own opinion and doing this is not classified as defamation.

Another limitation to the freedom of expression is when one says something which causes panic. A good example of this is when one shouts “fire” in a crowded shopping mall. Fighting words are also exempted from the freedom of speech. This encompasses speech that when uttered may cause injury to others and may cause the peace to be disturbed. This however needs to be thoroughly considered since that one person may have been provoked to release those so-called fighting words.

Speech that relates to the incitement of crime is also not covered by the First Amendment. When one speaks in order to encourage another person to commit something that is considered to be against the law, this is not considered to be part of one’s right to free speech.

Sedition involves conduct which is committed against the state in an effort to overthrow or do harm to the government. This will vary depending on one’s present situation. Obscene words are also not part of one’s right to freedom of expression and there is a test that governs this limitation. This is one of the most controversial exceptions to the First Amendment. Many people disagree on the parameters that are used to measure if a certain word can be considered obscene or not.

The Essence of Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is very important to each and every person. Every human being must have the right to write, speak, and receive ideas from others without any worries. Democratic countries have implemented the law of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak without restraint. People in democratic nations have the right to express their feelings or opinions through verbal language. It can also be distinguished as an act of receiving ideas and information from other people. Under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the freedom of speech is identified as a human right. It was also identified as the right to hold opinions without interference in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In early human rights documents, ideas of freedom of speech are stated. During the European Enlightenment, ideas of freedom of speech have appeared slowly. One of the most valuable of the rights of human is the freedom of communication of information and opinions.

The right to freedom of expression should be given to the people. This was also stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This article was approved in 1948. Freedom to hold opinions without intrusion and receive any information by any media was also stated in this article. Currently, the international and regional human rights laws have recognized the freedom of speech. The right to freedom speech is also connected to other rights. This right is also connected to the right to a fair trial. For the media, the right to freedom of expression is very important. On the other hand, the freedom of the press is only a form of property right. The ideas of freedom of speech are closely associated to political discussions and the concept of democracy. Alexander Meiklejohn is considered as one of the most prominent advocates of the relation between democracy and freedom of speech. Alexander stated that the ideas of democracy are that of self-government by the people.

An argument about the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of speech remains with social interactions was made. Communicating to other people freely is also a form of freedom of speech.  Freedom of speech also has limitations. The limits on the freedom of speech were recognized by large society and legal systems. This was stated by the freedom Forum Organization.

The editor of the Index on Censorship said that that internet is used as a revolt for restriction. Freedom of speech is also identified as one figure of freedom of expression, utilized to any medium and this includes the internet. This is according to International, national and regional standards. Freedom of speech has its extension and this is the freedom of information. In the freedom of information, the internet is the way of expression. In the background of information technology and internet, the freedom of information is connected to the right to privacy. Aside from this, freedom of information is also considered as the extension of the human right.

Initial Stages in the Development of Freedom of Speech

Every individual is free to speak or express their feelings and opinions. Many years ago, freedom of speech has been amended. The problem of hate speech is considered by lots of different countries including the United States of America. Most of these countries are implementing laws so that it can be restricted. Some countries considered the hate speech as a bad effect in the community. On 1787, the Constitution of the United States was drafted. By the following year it was approved and it was being processed in 1789. In 1791, the ten amendments constituting the Bill of Rights were implemented. The new government’s powers with the consideration to speech were controlled by one of these ten amendments. Legal debates about free speech and hate speech have been made. The first amendment was explained in the middle of these debates.

The definition of the first amendment is just the same as many articles in the constitution. They are all uncertain and it gives a universal orientation for central action. But it was made open to conversation. A justification for a wide principle of freedom of speech is not offered by the Constitution. Aside from this, little guidance is offered by the Constitution. When applying the general principle to hard cases, the rationale can be vital. The first amendment cannot be used anywhere. It can only be used to the federal congress. Until today, this amendment is still leading in the courts. There is a great possibility that books, films, and speakers can be controlled by the state and local governments.

The rules and ideas of the federal and state governments about association and freedom of speech were examined during the First World War. Because of this war, federal and state governments were forced to do this. The American involvement in the First World War has increased. Because of this, numbers of issues and organizations came out. An Espionage Act was approved by the federal government in the 1917. In the following year, several amendments were added. These were referred to as the Sedition Act. Because of this, disloyal criticism of the government becomes illegal.

Anti-draft and anti-war were tried to be restrained. This was made by the Postal Service through not allowing it from the mails. The mail of organizations was removed and some socialist party leaders were convicted because of this. The conviction was under the wartime acts. This is for their resistance to conscription. There is one of the organizations that against United States involvement in the war. This organization is the American Union against Militarism or the AUAM.  During the First World War, a military draft was established. The AUAM was very concerned about this draft. They are also interested about the attempts that were done by the Postal Service to the war policy.

Cases about free speech have occurred. There is a lot of important free speech cases happened. One of these cases was on 1977. Many debates still happens after many decisions made by the Supreme Court. Free speech is still controversial and they are arguing things about this.

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