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Freedom of Expression

Freedom of Expression


Madras High Court Upholds Freedom of Expression for Artists and Authors, Emphasizes the Importance of Prioritizing Law and Order Maintenance. In a significant ruling, the Madras High Court has affirmed the importance of protecting the freedom of expression for artists and authors. The court’s decision highlights that rather than discouraging them from sharing their work due to concerns about law and order, the state should concentrate on upholding law and order itself.

Why is Freedom of Expression Important?

  • The importance of freedom of expression is deeply embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically in Article 19, which outlines fundamental human rights. Over time, this crucial right has gained legal protection through various international and regional agreements.
  • Amnesty International has consistently prioritized the defense of freedom of expression, recognizing its essential role in holding those in positions of power accountable. Furthermore, this freedom serves as a cornerstone for other human rights, including the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, allowing these rights to thrive.
  • Additionally, freedom of expression is closely intertwined with the freedom of association, enabling individuals to create and join clubs, societies, trade unions, or political parties with the people of their choosing. It also connects with the right to participate in peaceful assemblies and demonstrations.

What HC has said?

  • In a recent ruling on the true meaning of freedom of speech outlined in Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution, the court clarified that this article primarily upholds the principle of free speech, not restrictions. The court emphasized that unless a situation falls within the reasonable restrictions defined in Article 19(2), freedom of speech must be safeguarded, regardless of societal opinions.
  • Furthermore, the court recommended the establishment of an expert body to address conflicts related to art and literature. This body should comprise individuals with expertise in the fields of art and creative literature.
  • The court also urged the state to ensure the safety and protection of artists and authors who may face threats from certain sections of society due to their work.

A Foundational Right

Freedom of expression stands as a fundamental right that’s not only crucial for safeguarding human rights but also essential for our well-being. This right empowers every individual, community, and society to voice their most basic needs – be it access to clean water, food, shelter, or fresh air. It paves the way for vital aspects like healthcare, quality education for our children, decent employment opportunities, and fair wages. Moreover, it allows us to practice the religion of our choice or none at all, love and marry whomever we desire, and show support for those facing hardship. It plays a pivotal role in ensuring equality under the law, irrespective of one’s economic status. In simple terms, freedom of expression acts as the lifeblood of a thriving democracy.

“Democracy is built on the right to dissent, on the right for people to hold opposing positions. Our societies need freedom of expression to protect us from the worst atrocities that governments can visit on their citizens.”

– Ben Okri, Nigerian Poet and Novelist

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