Should I have the right to say or write what I want, no matter whom it offends?

The perspective of Freedom of Speech is positive and a basic human right that every Man, Woman and Child should be entitled too. The discussion regarding whether society should have the right to say and write what they want no matter who it offends has been debated extensively over the 328 years since the development of the British Bill of Rights in 1689. This was the first instance of freedom of speech not only for parliament, for the citizens of Britain, which inspired much of the western world to follow. Furthermore, I am in favour of the viewpoint suggesting a line must be drawn in order to preserve and protect humanity.

There have been examples throughout history where Freedom of Speech was abused. For example, in many dictatorships restrictions were imposed on speech, such as Joseph Stalin in Russia when purging anyone who challenged his authority. Conversely, the Second World War also shows an abuse of Freedom of Speech as Hitler used the concept to spread his beliefs which possibly could have been stopped before he achieved chancellorship in 1933. This poses the question as to where the line should then be drawn, if at all. People should have the right to speak out about their leaders and criticize them without the fear of death. On the other hand, as Nazi Germany has shown that there must be some form of censorship on an international level to make sure that a catastrophe such as the attempted elimination of the German Jews never reoccurs.

Freedom of speech is exceedingly important for everyone to have, even though at times it may become uncomfortable. In recent years, the rise of the political party UKIP has caused disturbance in British politics. In the General Election of 2015 UKIP, although only attaining 1 seat in parliament, managed to acquire 12.6% of the vote. UKIP and its followers would not call themselves racist, however many would disagree. This issue demonstrates two points: the first being that freedom of speech allows statements that many would find uncomfortable. The second point demonstrating that it is hard to distinguish, even with acts of parliament, the lines in which Freedom of Speech must be drawn. To many people UKIP is a non-racist organisation, which makes it hard to come to a definitive answer. Whereas other political parties such as the BNP are widely acknowledged to be a racist party.

It may be argued that popular support can be limited by social expectations. This is shown in the recent situation regarding the Nobel Prize winner, Tim Hunt. Mr Hunt had made scientific discoveries concerning the division of protein molecules; however he was terminated from his job due to an unintentionally sexist comment he made regarding women in labs. Benedict Cumberbatch similarly experienced this when calling black actors “coloured” but having no intent to degrade actors of a mixed heritage. Thus showing that freedom of speech is limited more by social expectations than the law. When society does not like a certain type of behaviour, shown in both examples above, it is shunned and appears in the media. In the case of Tim Hunt, his employer decided it was more important to follow social expectations and maintain their reputation rather than to continue his employment. There is a direct correlation between the Human Rights Act and social expectations. It would appear that this act lays out the basic foundations on which society base their judgements. Law is put in place, in the form of the Human Rights Act, in order to protect the fundamental rights that all citizens of the EU have. Built onto this is the behaviour the public expects and insists, which is arguably more influential in present day where the media is significantly powerful, possibly even more so than the Human Rights Act.

The protection of society as a whole is arguably one of the most important reasons for the Law. This has been challenged in recent years by terrorist organisations in such events as 9/11, 7/7, Charlie Hebdo, the Tunisian Crisis along with several others, the most recent threat being ISIS. At the back bone of the dilemma lays Freedom of Speech, alongside Freedom of Thought, Religion and Belief, stated in the Human Rights Act. Again, being a topic many find distressing to engage in, as well as hard to discuss and challenge in fear of being Racist. Allowing people to say and write what they want has created extremist groups that are protected by these rights. Preachers are allowed to speak out for their beliefs, for example when Anjem Choudary, a Muslim hate spokesman, encouraged young British Nationals to go and fight in Syria. This is pushing the boundaries of morality and criminal law.

Speech is a powerful entity which fuels the development of society. Without it, the world would be backward. Therefore it must be treated delicately and gifted to all. Freedom of speech is something that has clarified throughout time, and will continue to develop along with society. There will never be a definitive line that will be drawn that shows what can be said and what cannot, however there must be limits. There have been developments in this throughout historical events such as the Second World War. In the present day, individuals such as Mr Tim Hunt and Benedict Cumberbatch illustrate moral limits to language. To an extent, no matter how uncomfortable it may get, humanity has the job of condemning certain behaviour or views. Therefore, it must be argued that people should not have the right to say or write completely unrestricted. There must be limits in order to protect British Citizens and the world.

 

This is an old arcticle I wrote a few years back, although in many ways, the situation of the country have changed, and there may be more up to date examples, the basic priciples are the same. 

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