Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Freedom of Expression

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Freedom of Expression

Freedom is men’s natural and inalienable right. People are free to speak what they have in their mind – which is called freedoms of thought and expression. One has to raise their voice against cruelty and injustice done to them. There are many ways for expressing one’s thoughts and opinions, including verbal and written statements. Similarly, there are several ways and tones for expressing one’s ideas and feelings. For instance, one’s words will be fraught with bitter sarcasm or flattery and kind tone. One will illustrate their thought through drawing, painting, caricaturing or doing satire, yet there are some restrictions and setbacks before all freedoms, including freedom of speech.
In modern world, media play a key role in this regard, mainly social media such as Facebook, Twitter and so on. A person can simply share his/her thought via social media and feel freedom of expression to the last end. Now the question is that what will catch your eye while scrolling down your Facebook? No doubt, you will not only see your friends’ photos and their memorable times – prompting you to push the “Like Button” or express your feelings through posting a “Sticker” – but also absurd words and pictures for entertainment. In other words, since cyberspace bestows a boundless freedom of speech, people express their personal thoughts in ruthless tone and abusive words. They fill the air with absurdities. Perhaps, some seek to show off through such absurdities but others break the lumps in their throats likely to be rife in countries where freedoms of thought and speech have been much restricted.
Afghanistan has been beset by war and violence for decades. Afghans have suffered indescribable pains and anguish and their freedoms were curtailed on a large scale. They were silenced despite being oppressed and killed. Political parties and warring factions suppressed their voice for their rights and justice. Afghan women were particularly vulnerable to all political upheaval and ideological mindsets and underwent greater agonies. So, it is believed that decades of outpouring of grief without the right to breathe a word filled the nation with a strong sense of anger. Similarly, people were traumatized by deadly wars and still suffer from suicide bombings and terrorist attacks. Now they will raise their voice and express their anger in the strongest possible way. This surge of emotions will cool down after some generations if militancy ends.
A number of individuals target religious beliefs and cultural values of a society via writing in social media. Seemingly, they intend to spread awareness or claim being intellectuals. However, it is believed that this will do more harm than good and an intellectual is not supposed to attack on people’s faith ruthlessly. This act will hurt the public feelings and trigger a sense of hatred.
It should be noted that there is no absolute freedom in human societies. One is free to the extent that they do not harm the freedoms of others. That is to say, freedom – be it freedom of thought, expression, religion, etc. – has its own limits and boundaries. No one is at liberty to cross the red line or violate an individual or collective freedom. The Constitution of Afghanistan states in article 24 as, “Liberty is the natural right of human beings. This right has no limits unless affecting others freedoms as well as the public interest, which shall be regulated by law….”
On the other hand, when the public fight for freedom within the frame of law, the state is not supposed to suppress their voice. People have to fight for their freedoms and raise their eyebrows in case of having their rights trampled upon. Constitutionally, “Liberty and human dignity are inviolable. The state shall respect and protect liberty as well as human dignity.” So, the state will have to uphold citizens’ fundamental rights, which include freedoms. Most significantly, the staff of media should be able to point out government’s deficiencies and officials’ negligence free from fear of prosecution. In brief, the media, along with civil society activists, have the responsibility to supervise the government and reveal any shortcomings to the public.

It is self-explanatory that fighting for freedom – mainly freedoms of speech and thought – is significant, but what is more important is having something valuable to say. For example, when one shouts for freedom, s/he will have to have well-thought-of words for people and society. Otherwise, what will be the use of freedom of speech? To put it succinctly, a nation should defend its rights and express its concerns about social ills, political syndrome, moral decline, etc. – with due respect to the rights and liberty of others – under the aegis of freedom of speech. Indeed, freedom of speech is a great blessing for both a person and a nation and should be used in the best possible way. 

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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