Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, September 28th, 2020

Freedom of Expression Not Boundless

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right of mankind in civil societies. In the post-Taliban administration, freedom of expression has been one of the highly controversial issues and was included in the Constitution, too. Freedom of expression is a principle that one is allowed to express their social, political and religious beliefs and thoughts in the frame of words, texts, pictures, etc. The sudden eruption of the media, including audio, video and press, after the fall of the Taliban’s regime, played an instrumental role in promoting freedom of speech – which is now a dire need.
It is believed that freedom of expression in Afghanistan covers a wide range comparing to other countries. For instance, political officials are not only rebuked but also humiliated seriously via comedies, caricatures, satire, and social media. People openly express their views against the government and put their negligence under question.
On the other hand, the government is supposed to uphold the freedom of expression. Constitutionally, freedom of expression is viewed as one’s natural rights – which is immune to violation. Afghan constitution states in Article 34 as, “Freedom of expression shall be inviolable. Every Afghan shall have the right to express thoughts through speech, writing, illustrations as well as other means in accordance with provisions of this constitution. Every Afghan shall have the right, according to provisions of law, to print and publish on subjects without prior submission to state authorities….” It is further stated in Article 24 that “liberty and human dignity are inviolable. The state shall respect and protect liberty as well as human dignity.”
It should be noted that the immunity of freedom of expression does not necessarily mean that there is no boundaries for this freedom or one can express their thoughts at any cost. For example, our so-called intellectuals target the cultural and religious values of nation in the social media with sarcastic and bitter rhetoric which hurt the feelings of our religious nation. However, targeting the culture and custom which are in conflict with religious tenets and Islamic values holding strong sway in tribal belts will be worthwhile – which also needs to be done in a soft tone.  Attacking the beliefs of a society with biting words will not be acceptable at all. Those who intend to do so with good will; i.e., reforming the society, it will backfire on them.
It is an undeniable fact that tribal custom which is contrary to religious sharia prevails in our society, mainly in tribal belts. Pasthunwalai (the triable code of conduct) and tribal councils, which resort to desert court once in a while, are in conflict with Islamic and national laws. However, none will justify attacking the biting words of the so-called intellectuals in social media. It is needless to say that a number of individuals seek to introduce themselves as intellectuals through studying few books from western intellectuals. They repeat exactly what they study rather than generating new ideas. Meanwhile, a number of other individuals support and imitate them. In case of being confronted by the outbreak of public sentiment, they simply blame them for lacking tolerance. On the contrary, those who attack the society’s beliefs, show no sense of tolerance in terms of their beliefs or practices – this seems a paradox.
Hence, it should be noted that there is no absolute freedom of expression. In other words, responsibility is the other side of the coin and where there is right there is responsibility. When we claim that freedom of expression is our right, we need to view its limit, too. One is not allowed to exercise their own freedoms at the cost of the freedoms of others.
It is noteworthy that the process of intellectualism has not been formed in our society. In our society, those who claim to be intellectuals are not able to generate idea but repeat the words and ideas of other real intellectuals, mainly those of western.
Freedom of expression is a great asset, and we are supposed to use it in the best possible way. A number of people in other countries, particularly where patriarchal or despotic regime or sultanate rule, either lack this asset or this freedom is highly restricted. Under the system of sultanate, rebuking government is considered a crime. In some democratic countries, the range of freedom of expression is not to the extent of ours.
Unluckily, a large number of people who lack the very basic knowledge seek to write about an issue on social media for being noticed disregarding the fact that their words are worthless. After all, using foul languages on social media in our country is changing into a normal practice. It is believed that keeping silent will be far more honorable than the negative usage of social media.
On the other side, since the government is committed to uphold freedom of speech, it has to support it strongly and prosecute the violators – be it ordinary individuals or government officials.