The Freedom of Speech: Always in the Public Interest - Essay Example

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The Freedom of Speech: Always in the Public Interest? Introduction This paper will assess the controversial issue and heated debate surrounding the concept of the freedom of speech and the general notion of the press that they should be given the freedom of expression because of the public interest argument…
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The Freedom of Speech: Always in the Public Interest
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Download file to see previous pages The Freedom of Expression & Speech In the case of Handyside v United Kingdom1 the European Court held that freedom of expression comprises one of the vital foundations of any democratic society. As defined in Article 10(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is directly applied in English law by the Human Rights Act 1998, it states that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.” It is commonly recognised that there exists a public interest in the freedom of expression and hence the freedom of the press.2 In R v Shayler3 Lord Bingham stated that the right is fundamental because: “Modern democratic government means government of the people by the people for the people. But there can be no government by the people if they are ignorant of the issues to be resolved, the arguments for and against different solutions and the facts underlying those arguments.” The right to freedom of expression was established and assigned a considerable amount of protection before the Human Rights Act came into the realm of English Law, particularly in relation to certain torts which were protected at common law. The implementation of the HRA has brought the opinion that Article 10 merely strengthens and emphasises principles which were already evident in English case law.4 The general approach of the courts is that any interference in the freedom of expression is viewed as an infringement of individual liberties and the right to a moral form of autonomy: the right of individuals to make choices and express views by communicating them to others.5 Additionally, Article 10 goes as far as to protect the expression of certain materials which some may find offensive; in the case of O’Shea v MGN Ltd 6, the court held that pornographic advertisements were a protected form of expression, despite the fact that many were evidently offended at the way in which it degraded women. Of course, the right to the freedom of expression is certainly not absolute; it often comes into conflict with rights contained in the Convention such as privacy. This requires that the courts assess whether the freedom of expression is prevalent over and more important than other rights and interests provided for in the Convention. As will be explored below, the courts have been presented with a difficult balancing task. According to Article 10(2) of the Convention, the freedom of expression can indeed be limited by certain restrictions, provided they are prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society, which are: “the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary” The general approach in terms of famous figures, however, is that the freedom of expression is placed above their privacy interests.7 The task of balancing the right to privacy and the freedom of ex ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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