Our Readers' Opinions
December 15, 2006

Long live freedom of expression!


“…the right to free speech entails allowing an individual to put forward an unpopular … idea which the majority might wish to suppress…The battle of ideas must always be fought in conditions of free speech. Any set of beliefs, whether secular or religious, works best through the power of persuasion. There should be no room in a pluralist society for totalitarian ideologies, which, through indoctrination or coercion, seek to exclude all dissent. However much the opinions of others are deplored, debate must never be curtailed by laws which undermine the liberty to disagree peacefully about the eternal verities. Free speech entails the freedom to be provocative- to say things that cause offence, to insult the opinions of others, to impart information others may wish to suppress, to voice views others may hate. It also entails the duty to be tolerant of those who voice such views, however much one personally disagrees with them.” Robert Hargreaves, The First Freedom, A History Of Free Speech, 2002, page 305,311.

EDITOR: The exercise of free speech is a defining feature for the growth and prosperity of any free and rights conscious society. Free speech can be classed under the broad caption of Freedom of Expression. Freedom of Expression involves freedom to manifest or propagate one’s beliefs, whether they are original, similar or against other persons views and beliefs, and freedom to utilize the media to communicate and propagate one’s views and beliefs.{{more}}

It is important to note early that freedom must not be misconstrued for license. Freedom of expression must always be viewed in relation to respect of the rights of others. Free speech should prevail except of course, such expressions which constitute libel, slander, obscenity, sedition or criminal conduct which lead to the infringement of the God-given rights of others.

Controversy often arises when individuals express ideas that are opposed to or critical of prevailing religious, political and economic beliefs.

Down through the ages, there have been discussions, discourses and struggles regarding free speech. Unfortunately, history is filled with numerous examples of tyrannical individuals and governments who have sought to suppress god-given freedoms, through deceptive, anti-right devices for example through influencing governments to legislate against criticism, physically murdering the critic or causing riots.

Despite the boast in the present age of so-called advancement and enlightenment, there is a dire need to be reasonably educated about the practice of free speech.

When a Danish cartoonist can receive death threats, from violent, anti-right Muslims, for portraying the ‘prophet’ Mohammed as a murderer, I ask, where is tolerance? When a historian, in a developed first world country, can be jailed for denying the holocaust or speaking out against the wicked deeds of unconverted Jews, I question, where is the reign of free speech? When someone in our little SVG can be unreasonably hauled before the court or someone can be threatened or put off a radio station because he criticizes the policies of a political party or the doctrines of a religious organization, I have to enquire, are we really living in the age of enlightenment, or are not these tenets of the Dark Ages that should be gotten rid of?

I am thankful that there still exist persons with divine conviction, justice and a stern adherence to the goodly principles of the Constitution (for example of SVG) regarding the lawful promotion of free speech.

“Except with his own consent, a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference with his correspondence” Constitution and Constitutional Laws Booklet, St. Vincent and the Grenadines page 19 Section 10(1).

Long live free speech for an ennobling society! Long live freedom of expression in SVG!

Ann-Marie John