Freedom of speech is something that is authorized to every person. No matter rich or poor, young or old, every person holds different opinion and it’s their right to express it. The definition of Freedom of speech is that every person has the right to express his/her opinion without the fear of government or society. This is why it is said ‘Speech is not limited to public only’. Being individuals, we are all different. We all possess different ideas, tastes and thinking. Freedom of speech is something like freedom of thoughts. If we are comfortable with each other’s freedom of thoughts like ‘every person has the right to follow his thoughts, conscience’ then why we hate when someone express their ideas or opinions despite the fact that opinions are just opinions, never right or wrong.
From today’s society, the only answer that can be considered satisfactory is that we have changed the definition of ‘freedom of speech’. We have changed our way of expressing ideas. We have become intolerant especially on the social media where we all act like having a furious debate and desperate to win it. I have myself seen a lot many cases like this, when someone does not like someone else’s article, they just start commenting criticism and disparage others by expressing their thoughts with the belief that only they are accurate. This self-centered attitude starts a never ending debate which spread nothing else but sectarianism, hatred, abhorrence and hostility.
This is why it is said ‘freedom of speech should be limited now a days’. It’s actually the reason behind needless fights when a person wants to prove his opinion right at any coast. Basically it means that now a day people insult each other for holding different opinions from them. ‘Hatred takes energy’ so why waste our energy on proving ourselves right by insulting others. Instead we should accept and respect other’s opinions and move on.
Freedom of speech is every being’s fundamental right but unfortunately, today, some people are using it to propagandize aggressiveness, intolerance and enmity. Every person should be given right to express but before expressing; it’s their responsibility to have set some limits.
Charlie Hebdo’s act which was given name of ‘freedom of speech’ was in fact a freedom to insult according to Muslim community. They published the cartoons of a highly revered personality in Islam; Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).This act is not only forbidden in Islam but also caused many Muslims to suffer emotional pain and resentment at such an open exhibition of hatred in the name of freedom of expression.Ironically the same magazine, in 2008, fired one of its cartoonists for publishing ‘anti-Semitic’ statement. On the other hand, this is also true that it has the past of issuing cartoons or articles that mock other religions. Prophet (PBHUH) is the central figure of Islam and Muslims love and respect him more than themselves, their parents and their children. Nobody likes it when some person mocks or criticizes them or their families, then how can the magazine name it ‘freedom of speech’ by cartooning a sacred human in an improper way. This defamation of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) caused indignation among many young Muslims who felt alienated at the spread of hate speech in the name of ‘freedom of expression’. Although the terrorist attack on the magazine is equally condemnable and cannot be justified in any case. But, had the magazine exhibited some responsibilities in the usage of ‘freedom of expression’ this world would have escaped a horrific terror attack.
Talking and doing are two contrasting things. No one has the mastery to change what’s in your mind but problem arise when you act on it and enforce your opinions on others. The way Charlie Hebdo chooses to express which they called their ‘opinion’ was totally wrong and unacceptable by Muslims.
Let’s take another present example in front of us. Donald Trump, a famous name and Republican Presidential candidate of 2016 presidential elections of the USA, is notorious for his racial remarks. He refused to rent homes to black people, he refuses to condemn the violence against Muslim Americans and African-Americans executed by his supporters, he asks to ban Muslims from America, he mocks Chinese and Japanese for their heritage and English. Irony is his supporters label it all as ‘freedom of speech’ but in actual it is his loathing that contains no limits.
I am not arguing that we should curtail the right of ’freedom of speech’. I espouse the fact that one should have complete liberty to describe ideas and opinions as ideas breed innovation and progress. On the other hand it is equally wrong to spread hatred, to malign and defame fellow human beings in the name of freedom of speech.
Just as the right to hold a licensed gun does not grant someone a license to shoot a human being, it is the responsibility of the gun holder to use it with extreme care, similarly the right of ‘freedom of expression’ should be practiced carefully so that we may not spread hatred and ignite violence in the society.
I would like to conclude with a prudent remark of J. K. Rowling in her famous book ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’
Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.
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The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States guarantees every American citizen the freedom of speech, which means a right to freely express one’s thoughts and ideas. The freedom of speech is an integral American value—one of the pillars on which American society was built. However, the right to express one’s thoughts without constraint can be controversial; expressing hatred, for example, is also allowed. The main issue here is to guarantee others’ safety and make sure a person expressing hatred would not go further than expressing his or her position without committing illegal acts. Censorship is meant to regulate such controversies; on the other hand, censorship can be compared to a poisonous gas: it can turn against the attacker if the wind changes (ACLU).
The first recorded case of censorship in the United States occurred in 1734-1735, when a New York-based newspaper printer John Peter Zenger, who was accused of slandering the governor of New York (Zenger published a seditious libel criticizing the authorities) and was taken into custody. Zenger was defended in court by Andrew Hamilton, who proclaimed in his famous speech “Truth cannot be Libel.” This court case was historic in terms of empowering the freedom of press by the Constitution, even though there were numerous attempts to limit it—such as John Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts adopted in 1798, or the Sedition Act of 1917 (Censorship in America).
Today, the U.S. media finds itself in an ambivalent situation. It is shielded from revealing their sources, as it is protected by the First Amendment, and Obama’s administration even offered a federal shielding law for journalists. Besides, digital media sources and the Internet are more difficult to control, monitor, and censor. On the other hand, media ownership, combined with financial issues, traditional institutions trying to stay afloat and prevent the appearance of undesired information and political partisanship, as well as the government’s attempt to reveal whistleblowers, negatively affect the freedom of speech (Index on Censorship).
As for the quality of content being published online and in printed media, censorship is mostly applied to materials that match such criteria as obscenity, provocations, pornography, religiously or culturally sensitive issues, calls for violence, and certain other problematic topics, such as racial discrimination.
At the same time, it seems censorship is not limited only by these fields. Copyright legislature and surveillance pose one of the biggest threats for a free distribution of information over the Internet. As for surveillance in general, Google Transparency reports testify the United States takes first place in the world for the numbers of requests for users’ personal data; the number of court orders for content removal is also among the highest in the world (after Brazil). Considering that media companies in the United States tend to comply with governmental requests regarding users’ personal data, Americans tend to self-censor their electronic communications to avoid possible legislative issues (Index on Censorship).
The situation with the freedom of speech in the United States is controversial. Though it is guaranteed by the First Amendment as a right to freely express one’s thoughts and ideas, there are topics that are being monitored and censored, such as pornography, obscenity, religiously and culturally sensitive problems, calls for violence, and several others. American journalists are usually protected by state laws, which guarantee them their ability to work. At the same time, the American government is known to request telecommunication companies for users’ personal data, which results into Americans self-censoring their electronic communications. Copyright legislation is also considered to be a threat to the free distribution of information in media.
“United States: Free Expression Constrained by Cultural and Political Factors.” Index on Censorship. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2014. <http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2013/08/united-states-free-expression-constrained-by-cultural-and-political-factors/>.
“Censorship.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2014. <https://www.aclu.org/free-speech/censorship>.
“History of Censorship in The U.S.A.” Censorship in America. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2014. <http://www.censorshipinamerica.com/p/history-of-censorship-in-usa.html>.
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