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Freedom of Speech: A Myth?

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.

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The right to free expression is a component of a larger idea that is largely acknowledged as the cornerstone of liberal democracies. The phrase, which is sometimes used synonymously with the idea of a larger umbrella, refers to both a political notion and a fundamental tenet of both domestic and international human rights law.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1948, serves as an illustration of the foundation for the latter. It recognized the freedom of expression as a fundamental human right that should be universally protected. Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, which includes the ability to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and share information and ideas through any means, according to Article 19.

Read more: Private: Freedom of speech under siege in Pakistan!

Understanding the matter better

We live in a time when freedom of speech and the media are receiving so much attention, but it’s all for naught. According to the UN resolution, freedom of speech is one of the most important human rights that should be protected by all countries. However, this isn’t enough to stop people from being targeted by their political rivals or other groups who disagree with them. Journalists are regularly attacked as well: they could be killed while reporting on sensitive topics or even just because they are journalists at all!

UNESCO noted that many journalists were killed in targeted attacks with each passing year.

In 2017, UNESCO reported that at least 80 journalists were killed in targeted attacks. In 2016 and 2015, this figure was 74 and 67 respectively. The World Press Freedom Index 2018 report reveals that as of June 2018 there were at least 89 journalists killed globally due to their work. The number includes murders, suicides, and cases where no details are available about the circumstances surrounding death (for example: “the body was found on a street”).

UN has gone a step further to pass a resolution for the safety of journalists 

In order to ensure the safety of the journalists the UN has gone a step further to pass a resolution to ensure that they are safe. The resolution, which came into effect in March 2017, calls on governments around the world to ensure that journalists are free from physical attacks and other forms of violence. It also urges them to adopt laws and policies that protect sources, journalists’ families, and their colleagues.

But what does this mean? How can such resolutions help prevent attacks against journalists?

The answer lies in one simple fact: they cannot. There is no such thing as absolute safety in war zones or anywhere else where threats exist—even if you’re wearing bulletproof armor and carrying an AR-15 rifle on your back (you aren’t).

The reality remains that journalists are targets, and their freedom of speech is not respected. Journalists are still being killed. They’re still being jailed and censored, threatened, and intimidated. And they’re persecuted in order to silence them for their work. Moreover, In the digital age, “the age-old practices of using the law to suppress reporting has been revived with a new ferocity,” claimed Khan, pointing to the rise in recent years in the use of criminal law and “fake news” laws to stifle online free speech and prosecute and punish journalists with hefty fines and harsh imprisonment.

Read more: Disrespecting Holy Prophet not freedom of speech: Russia’s Vladimir Putin

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ database as of 1 June 2022, fifteen journalists and media professionals perished during the Russo-Ukrainian War. According to authorities, Arshad Sharif, a well-known Pakistani journalist, died in Kenya after being shot by police who were called to a report of a stolen car. Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. This type of news raises serious concerns about journalists’ safety and freedom of speech worldwide.

Freedom of speech is a myth. It doesn’t exist, and you can’t use it to protect yourself from danger or get out of trouble. “Lack of accountability gives carte blanche to continue the litany of extrajudicial executions. The safety of journalists is essential in guaranteeing freedom of expression and media freedom”.

We need to remember that our freedom of speech is not just a myth, it’s a right! There’s no excuse for violence against journalists, but we must take responsibility ourselves if we want them safe. We all want the same thing — dignity and respect, even in our disagreements. Without freedom of speech, we cannot have freedom of thought or freedom of expression.

 

The writer is currently working as a Social Media Manager, Event and Communications Coordinator, and Freelance Writer. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.