“It comes with special duties and responsibilities.”
I believe no one should be denied the right to speak freely. Unfortunately, in some parts of the world freedom of speech is prohibited. Thankfully in the Turks and Caicos Islands and many of our neighbouring countries, people are allowed to express freely how they are felt.
However, freedom of speech does not mean you should be freely insulting people and saying all sorts of things about them even if the things are true. Freedom of speech must come with responsibility. We must be careful in what we say about others. We should not use freedom of speech to verbally attack people or to dehumanize people.
Freedom of speech is being used too loosely and it is being encouraged by people who should know better. The same way people feel they have the right to say anything they want about people, people also have a right to defend themselves if they feel what others say about them were irresponsible
All this type of behaviour can be avoided if individuals learn to control themselves, speak to the issues, attack the issues but do not attack the individuals.
Freedom of Speech
What is freedom of speech to you? Is it saying anything you feel like saying? Is it providing opinions? Is it having the ability to speak freely without any restrictions?
“Article 19 of the UDHR states that “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. The version of Article 19 in the ICCPR later amends this by stating that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities” and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.”
Based on the above definition, freedom of speech is the right to express your opinions freely, but it does not mean you have the right to freely attack individuals. It comes with responsibilities.
When we speak, we should have a responsibility not to hurt others with our words. We should have a responsibility to have facts. We should have a responsibility to listen. If you are irresponsible in your freedom of speech, you ought to be held responsible for your actions.
You can be responsible by bringing matters to the forefront that many people do not even know. You can be responsible by educating others on issues. If we do not watch out, sooner or later we will create a culture of “freeness” whereby we can say whatever we want without being held accountable for our actions and it becomes accepted by society.
Be responsible by telling people the truth. Do you want anyone to be irresponsible in attacking you or your family and friends? Then why can’t we see it is wrong to attack people. Are we allowing our love for politics to make us irresponsible? Are we allowing our love for gossip to make us irresponsible? Are we being easily influenced by others by not even knowing the two sides of a story and then commenting on and encouraging the abuse of freedom of speech.
Everybody has a right to freedom of speech but that does not mean everybody has a right to say what they want or like to say. No one should think they can make defamatory remarks or derogatory remarks about individuals and say that this freedom of speech. Some of us are abusing freedom of speech resulting in some individuals feeling imprisoned and handicapped.
This article is by no means to shut people up but to encourage individuals to exercise their freedom of speech with responsibility. Freedom of speech is a great way to bring awareness about issues. It is also an effective way to hold leaders accountable.
No one should try to stop anyone from freedom of speech but at the same time, freedom of speech comes with responsibility and anyone that abuses it should face consequences.