Freedom to speech and expression, the golden right of the non-colonial era
and is a basic conclusive evidence of having a sense of value in a nation.
Almost all countries across the globe provide freedom to speech and expression
at least on paper, and it's a serious issue to encroach this right
internationally. Democratic giants like India, USA, Canada and Australia believe
this right to be Strongest pillar of Democracy, their political and lawmaking
bodies reflect their seriousness in securing this basic Human right.
constitution confers right to speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) and
is also backed by the heart and soul of indian constitution i.e. Preamble of the
Constitution which ensures the security of all its citizen's liberty of thought
and expression. However no right can be absolute in any modern state to ensure
social control, therefore this right is subject to reasonable restrictions
mentioned in clause 2 to 6 of Article 19 of Indian Constitution.
It implies that freedom of speech is pre-eminent and indispensable in the
functioning of Democracy. As held in the case of Romesh Thapper vs State of
Freedom of speech and of the press lay at the foundation of all democratic
organizations, for without free political discussion no public education, so
essential for proper functioning of the popular Government, is possible.
But a the sudden surge in exploitation of rights of expression with an aim to
disturb the democracy and influence the political processes mostly in democratic
countries has threatened the geopolitics, international relations, general
elections and internal governmental administration.
With the all time high engagement on social media the concept of reasonable
restriction seems diminishing due to its vast connectivity and less
accountability. Social media giants like Facebook, twitter, whatsapp are no
doubt a boost in right of expression but their neutrality is questioned every
now and then. Hence a great tool for political propaganda, hate speech, negative
influence and forigen interference in elections and democratic functions of a
Exploitation of right to speech and expression recent trends
Right to speech and expression is a privilege of having a voice in a nation.
This right is exercised to have and express a view about government's conduct.
Communication between government and its citizens takes place in different forms
like through elected representatives, protests, voting etc is the medium of
understanding requirements of population and shortcomings in policies which
positively helps in governance.
But now this communication seems to have hijacked as fake protests, crowds,
social media bots, fake accounts, promotion of specific ideology have flooded
the worldwide. Companies like Crowd on Demand in the USA which allegedly has
been involved in providing mobs and crowds for any purpose in various events,
even celebrity events. This so called service is also being made available in
India. This is what defames democracy and influences the voters. This is no
surprise that paid propaganda promotion is a business in the celebrity
community, which not only provides money but with fame too.
The problem arises because the principle of reasonable restrictions seems
helpless in uncensored use of news and social media platforms.
The principle of reasonable restrictions in India under clause 2 of article 19
of Indian Constitution provides the following as grounds of reasonable
- Security of state
- Friendly relation with Foreign state
- Public order
- Decency or Morality
- Contempt of court
- Incitement of an offence
- Sovereignty of integrity of India
News Media and press
Freedom to speech and expression includes expression through words of mouth,
writing, painting, picture, gesture etc. Thus freedom to publish or broadcast
becomes an integral part of propagation of view and its circulation.
Due to its important media known as the fourth pillar of democracy, importance
adds more because of the principle of people's right to know. Supreme court of
India in the case of Prabhu Datt vs Union of India
held that right to
know news and information regarding administration of government is included in
freedom of press but no right is absolute.
News media with freedom of expression has a very specific and important purpose
to serve some of them are 1. Discovery of truth 2. Knowledge about govt policies
3. helps in election of the right govt 4. awareness about false news 5. helps
knowing rights and protection laws 6. views and opinion of experts.
Indian television media seems to be experimenting by fabricating the facts in
different tones i.e. noisy, busting and conveying news by exaggerating. It is
crucial to understand the power of polarisation that can be created through the
media, thus it has a great responsibility that's the reason it's called the
fourth pillar of Democracy.
Main problem of media polarization in Indian media is scarcity of funding for
media houses. News channels publishing houses and news websites have to manage
from the earnings of advertisement which seems inadequate for their expenses.
In these situations, in order to generate more income, media houses have to
explore for other income sources. Hence a bit of polarization or paid view
promotion seems a good source of income for them. However this can be eradicated
if the government, to promote fair media allocates funds for media or if
donations are given from consumers and organizations.
Issues of polarization Social media giants
Social Media platform is a world in itself. Its credibility has always been
questioned in political and democratic terms not only in India but in various
other major countries. Giants like twitter and facebook have great features of
personalized preference of view suggestion hence political brainwashing is not a
big deal for them.
Social media is indeed a revolutionary platform to make this right to expression
easily exercisable though huge connectivity, but recent trend shows this
connectivity is uncensored and uncontrolled, consequently resulting in Foreign
propaganda intervention, fake news, political encroachment in other country's
Citizens of the USA admit there has been a deep engagement of social media
giants in presidential elections right from 2012, afterwards usage of political
ideology promotion, biasness and deployment of bot accounts to promote ideology
spread propaganda has determined the fate of elections to a great extent.
Vested interests are very nicely met on social media platforms and influence of
these social media giants has grown so strong that they sometimes refuse to
comply with law and order of foreign land.
As recently Twitter refused to remove 1178 accounts on the order of Indian
Government, which were allegedly being operated from Foreign territory to
promote fake news and disturbance in India. Where twitter was found to be giving
it's own excuses of freedom of expression instead of following instructions of
Government which were under reasonable restrictions clause under national
security, Sovereignty of integrity of India and public order clause. These
social media giants sometimes fail to understand that integrity and good
governance of any country is its priority.
Foreign Influence in political processes of any other country is no new trend.
Almost all major elections are alleged to be somehow influenced by external
intervention. But this is always unconfirmed how effective it has been in
government formation. Recent US presidential elections in 2020 were also alleged
to be influenced by several foreign countries.
This is totally against morality and integrity of a country but this issue is
not dealt under right to expression internationally because it's immoral per-se.
Almost every powerful neighbouring country tries to form a government which
supports its ideologies in the other countries. This is done to gain influence
in other countries.
But the notable fact is that almost all propaganda and intervention is done on
social media platforms who claim to be totally irrelevant to elections.
Right to speech and expression is a great privilege to be given by the
government to its citizens. No right is absolute, right to speech and expression
is subject to some reasonable restrictions we must respect it.We are fortunate
enough to be able to enjoy this right as a basic human right provided that we
must use it cautiously, so that it doesn't destroy our own law and order which
itself guaranteed us their rights.
Democracy and basic guaranteed rights both are a blessing for a country and its
citizens, and it's our duty to let it prevail and flourish.