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What is freedom of speech and why, if it all, is it a good thing - Essay Example

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Freedom of speech is a right that is cherished all over the world. However it is quite limited or nonexistent in some countries or regions and this has resulted to constant struggle to expand or attain it…
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What is freedom of speech and why, if it all, is it a good thing
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Download file to see previous pages Freedom of speech is a right that is cherished all over the world. However it is quite limited or nonexistent in some countries or regions and this has resulted to constant struggle to expand or attain it. Currently, Middle East and Northern African countries like Bahrain and Libya respectively, are undergoing revolutions that aim at liberalising people from decades, if not centuries, of infringement of human rights one of them being freedom of speech. Although these current cases have received huge media, political and humanitarian attention, struggles of this nature happened in the western countries for people to enjoy the freedom currently enjoyed here. Freedom of speech is heavily attributed to the European enlightenment which revolved around numerous historical, socio-political and intellectual transformations. This enlightenment resulted to every person being regarded as a rational being who is in a position to make sensible decisions at will. The state has the obligation of creating conditions that facilitate the enjoyment of such liberties within the confines of set laws in consideration of general state of peace. This paper looks into what constitutes freedom of speech and why, if at all, it is a good thing. An individual’s right to freely present their views if discontented with the status quo and when they wish to see changes happening is referred to as freedom of speech (Feinberg 1994). Freedom of speech is increasingly becoming a benchmark of creativity and advancement of societies and countries at large. It is difficult for people to express their creativity and bring forth innovation where freedom of speech is hugely curtailed. The basic reason behind this is that a society deficient of freedom of speech limits people’s willingness to offer their views and explore choices to situations facing them. Speech in this understanding basically translates to the message that one is transmitting or intending to convey. In the last four decades freedom of speech has gained correlation with freedom of press with increased roles of the media. Looking into the US laws for example, The Congress is disallowed from making legislation that hinders ‘… the freedom of speech, or of the press’ (Feinberg 1994). Based on the definition offered above, freedom of speech threatens governments’ actions hugely making it a highly likely target for curtailment. A good scenario lies in the events occurring in the Arab World where citizens of countries are holding persistent demonstrations demanding for resignations of their presidents/leaders and cabinets while seizing government property like oil fields in Libya. This shows that speech needs to be protected at all cost in order to ensure societal transformation and coherence with the changing times. There has been wide debate as to whether some forms of speech need to be prohibited. This debate for years has led to development of various principles that assist in elaborating the above statement. The Harm Principal is one which originated from enlightenment thinkers. They argued that a person has the right to express their opinion or convey a message as long as in doing so no one is harmed. This principal came about as a result of British-American constitutionalism and it is well portrayed in the United States constitution where, as briefly stated earlier, Congress is to make no law that is based on respect of religious establishments or that which abridges freedom of speech or press (Warburton 2001). The French Revolution also brought with it a law that states that a person shall not be discriminated against based on their opinions and religion as long as these are in line with public order and the existing laws. A notable thinker, John Stuart Mill stated that freedom is important towards realisation of truth and that suppressing opinions is tantamount to infallibility (Schauer 1982). He also stressed that even if an opinion seems untrue it may still hold some degree of truth therefore its suppression will hold the little truth in it. However, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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