Should everyone have the right to free speech?

2018-Issue1_Featured-Myanmar_5.jpg

Last week in our BNC session, we did an activity where we talked about perspectives and opinions and how these can affect people's views of what is happening in Myanmar. A member of the group suggested that sometimes particular perspectives can be hurtful, disrespectful and can even fuel discrimination. That got me thinking: should these views be shared at all or just kept hidden inside? Should people whose opinions might be harmful have the right to share them?

I did some research into Article 10 of the Human Rights Act: the part which talks about freedom of speech and expression. According to the Act, this Article is fundamental to our democracy, which I think we can all agree is a positive thing for a country. It means we’re free to hold opinions and ideas and share them with others without the State interfering – which is crucial to keeping our Government accountable. Article 10 protects your right to communicate and express yourself in any medium, including in words, pictures and actions. It’s often used to defend press freedom and protect journalists’ sources.

The Article covers:

political expression – including peaceful protests and demonstrations

artistic expression

commercial expression – particularly when it also raises matters of legitimate public debate and concern.

This all sounds fantastic, doesn't it? And I'm sure most people would say that freedom of speech is one of the most basic human rights and one which should be protected at all costs.

However, I then came across something which I found shocking. The Act goes on to say that the right to free expression would be meaningless if it only protected certain types of expression. Therefore it protects both popular and unpopular expression – including speech that might shock and hurt others!

This means that people can say whatever they want about anything- including race and religion- and this is protected by the Act!! To me, this isn't right for several reasons:

1. People can purposefully hurt others by sharing their opinions and perspectives.

2. People can share racist and discrimatory opinions on social media platforms such as facebook and instagram. This becomes even worse when the people sharing these opinions are well-known (as we discussed in BNC, people are often more likely to believe the opinions of those who are famous and highly regarded). Donald Trump, for example, often shares extreme viewpoints that could be harmful to the peace of the World!

3. People can set up groups on social media that might indoctrinate others or cause big fights and arguments.

It's difficult because as soon as you start restricting freedom of speech by banning certain members or groups of a community from sharing their opinions, you begin to pave the way for censorship and dictatorship. However, I also believe that freedom of speech can cause many difficulties, particularly where racist or disrepectful views are not challenged.

What do you think? Do you think everybody should have the right to say whatever they want or not?

Comments (32)

  • Olivia-Avatar.jpg Olivia @ the BNC
    1 week, 4 days ago

    Wow, cultured_atom! I am pleased that your BNC discussions got you thinking further about the big issues! I am also really impressed with the way you have researched and interpreted the information you have found. This shows excellent curiosity and open-mindedness, so you have been awarded a star.

    You got me thinking. As I read this, I thought about hate speech and started to ask myself whether we really ARE free to say whatever we like. Don't some people get fined for saying certain things? Surely someone can't racially abuse another person, without any consequence?

    So, I did some research for myself here: https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/human-rights/free-speech-and-protest/speech-offences , which I found really useful. I'd like you to check it out! And then answer these questions.

    1. Do we have 100% free speech in the UK?
    2. Can you give an example of something that would be illegal, and explain why?

    Reply to this comment
  • Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg honorable_penguin
    Portobello High School1 week, 4 days ago

    I am really confused because am I right in saying it is against the law to be discriminatory against others?

    Reply to this comment
  • Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg honorable_penguin
    Portobello High School1 week, 4 days ago

    Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986 (POA) make it an offence for a person to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour that causes, or is likely to cause, another person harassment, alarm or distress. This can have serious implications on peaceful protestors and others exercising their freedom of expression, as someone who uses insulting language that might distress another were they to hear it could be guilty of an offence;

    Reply to this comment
  • Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg honorable_penguin
    Portobello High School1 week, 4 days ago

    i think that everyone should get the right to speak whether bad or good but they should make a group to help these people learn to get along on the media.

    Reply to this comment
  • Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg honorable_penguin
    Portobello High School1 week, 4 days ago

    we should all try to focas on the positive rather than the negative

    Reply to this comment
  • Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg honorable_penguin
    Portobello High School1 week, 4 days ago

    personally i think it is good we do not have complete freedom of speech so we can't disrespect other groups or harass

    Reply to this comment
  • Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg honorable_penguin
    Portobello High School1 week, 4 days ago in reply to Olivia @ the BNC's comment

    you do not have complete free speech in the UK and as the example I have posted above the reason you do not have complete free speech is because it is obvious that it is bad to say things against nice people and harass random people or just people in general

    Reply to this comment
  • Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg honorable_penguin
    Portobello High School1 week, 4 days ago

    I think everyone should have free speech because all opinions are slightly different so the if all of them were the same it would be a boring world.

    Reply to this comment
  • Emily 1.jpg Emily @ the BNC
    1 week, 4 days ago in reply to honorable_penguin's comment

    Hi honorable_penguin! I think it's a great idea to make a group that teaches people how to get along in the media. What kind of skills do you think it would need to teach people, and what difference do you think it could make, specifically?

    Reply to this comment
  • Streatham-Wells-logo-250x250.jpg easygoing_coyote
    Streatham Wells Primary School1 week, 4 days ago in reply to honorable_penguin's comment

    But what if somebody who had no idea what was going on was pulled into this would his/her opinion be important.

    Reply to this comment
  • Streatham-Wells-logo-250x250.jpg focused_measurement
    Streatham Wells Primary School1 week, 4 days ago

    i agree with you and i think that we should here from the military out of everyone, people are getting killed but that must mean that the military are passionate about something so we should respect that.

    Reply to this comment
  • Bruche-logo-250x250.jpg cheerful_river
    Bruche Primary School1 week, 4 days ago

    Yes every one should have the right to free speach

    Reply to this comment
  • Boutcher-logo-250x250.jpg magnificent_anteater
    Boutcher C of E Primary School1 week, 4 days ago

    everyone should have the right for free speech for their opinions, as although you might not like it, it can change the world for the better.

    Reply to this comment
  • Noel-Park-logo-250x250.jpg agreeable_blackberry
    Noel Park Primary School1 week, 4 days ago

    In my opinion i think that not every one could have there own speech because some peoples speech can change a lot of things

    Reply to this comment
  • Ormiston-Bushfield-logo-250x250.jpg benevolent_solution
    Ormiston Bushfield Academy1 week, 3 days ago

    Although we do have the right to free speech we must be very careful not abuse, offend or cause issues with another person. In the act in which we are given freedom of speech, it states that this does not apply to anything which may be regarded as incorrect or wrong. It, therefore, protects the "rights or reputation of others". (Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)

    Reply to this comment
  • Ormiston-Bushfield-logo-250x250.jpg effervescent_honeydew
    Ormiston Bushfield Academy1 week, 3 days ago in reply to honorable_penguin's comment

    This is true, but have you thought about that everyone is legally allowed an opinion on something? What may seem like harassment to you, might just be saying something you haven't thought about in a different way to you; everyone has a different way of making a point. Take what has happened in Myanmar and the imprisonment of three journalists: they allegedly showed disrespect towards the government, but there is no solid proof of what they said... should they have been imprisoned?
    I personally think think that everybody is allowed free speech until you start to infringe on other people's rights, but until you have solid evidence, I don't think you should punished.

    Reply to this comment
  • Ormiston-Bushfield-logo-250x250.jpg wonderful_context
    Ormiston Bushfield Academy1 week, 3 days ago in reply to cheerful_river's comment

    I partly agree with what you are saying as everyone should be able to have a voice and to express their own thoughts but if that opinion interferes with other peoples human rights then that voice should be reconsidered and possibly not shared.

    Reply to this comment
  • Ormiston-Bushfield-logo-250x250.jpg modest_boysenberry
    Ormiston Bushfield Academy1 week, 3 days ago

    I think most people should have free speech because everyone is entitled to their opinion. I don't think it was right that the three journalists were arrested, they were only sharing their opinions. I know Myanmar didn't like what the journalists had said but is it because what they said was true? Are they trying to cover it up?

    Reply to this comment
  • Ormiston-Bushfield-logo-250x250.jpg imaginative_mode
    Ormiston Bushfield Academy1 week, 3 days ago

    I honestly feel that having the right to free speech can be taken away from anyone in any environment. Having the right to free speech is a privilege that can be taken away by voicing just one sentence. It is like having a licence for a vehicle. You have been given that licence because you have proved that you can be trusted with it but if you misuse that trust, that privilege can be taken away from you and it will take a long time for that trust to be regained. Misusing that right of free speech and using it to criticise or belittle someone else's ethnic background or opinion for example. Donald trump does this on a daily basis. He has heartlessly said that women lie not even thinking about the fact that millions of women chose to vote for him as president. Those women may not trust everything he says now. He misused his freedom of speech to attack the opposite gender.

    So, in conclusion, I think everyone can have a freedom of speech but if you misuse it, you don't really deserve to have it.

    Reply to this comment
  • Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg honorable_penguin
    Portobello High School1 week, 3 days ago

    I think that anyone can have their own perspective inside their own head but if you share it then has to be relevant, respectful to all, and have a factually correct source. Thank you, cultured atom, for making us think.

    Reply to this comment
  • Bruche-logo-250x250.jpg patient_river
    Bruche Primary School1 week, 3 days ago

    I thinkeverybody should have the rights to speak to stop the crisis i so curious to see what happens next!

    Reply to this comment
  • Bruche-logo-250x250.jpg miraculous_jackfruit
    Bruche Primary School1 week, 2 days ago in reply to focused_measurement's comment

    Every body should have the right to speak so people agree with them

    Reply to this comment
  • Bruche-logo-250x250.jpg miraculous_jackfruit
    Bruche Primary School1 week, 2 days ago in reply to focused_measurement's comment

    Every body should have the right to speak so people agree with them

    Reply to this comment
  • Bruche-logo-250x250.jpg rational_deer
    Bruche Primary School1 week, 2 days ago in reply to patient_river's comment

    I agree with this because there isn’t a right answer all of the time for everything

    Reply to this comment
  • Bruche-logo-250x250.jpg amusing_swan
    Bruche Primary School1 week, 2 days ago

    Every body deserves the right to have a say because we are all equal and amazing and it is not fair because we all have a voice.

    Reply to this comment
  • Arnhem-Wharf-logo-250x250.jpg radical_reality
    Arnhem Wharf Primary School1 week, 2 days ago

    I think you should have the right to free speech and also not have the right to free speech because someone might say something offensive.

    Reply to this comment
  • Boutcher-logo-250x250.jpg rhetorical_quince
    Boutcher C of E Primary School6 days, 12 hours ago

    everyone should have the right to free speech as their opinions can change others too and encorage others to say what they believe.

    Reply to this comment
  • Faringdon-logo-250x250.jpg excited_passionfruit
    Faringdon Community College5 days, 9 hours ago

    I'm not sure really.
    yes:
    everyone has the right to say how they feel and their opinion. you can't just say 'you cannot share your opinion'. But then the person's opinion may be negative.
    no:
    sometimes, peoples opinions can hurt people. although its their opinion, it could be rude, racist or sexist which cannot be tolerated.
    I have a mixed opinion on this topic. Good post.

    Reply to this comment
  • Noel-Park-logo-250x250.jpg agreeable_blackberry
    Noel Park Primary School4 days, 12 hours ago

    In his post, cultured_atom says that the Human Right Act protects everyone’s right to freedom of speech under any circumstance. I don’t really agree with this. I had a look at the website Olivia shared and I found out that this isn’t entirely true.

    The article says that the right to free expression is not absolute- which means that you can’t always say what you want, there are exceptions to the rule.

    The following examples of free speech are actually criminal offences, which means you can be punished for saying certain things:

    - Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986 (POA) make it an offence for a person to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour that causes, or is likely to cause, another person harassment, alarm or distress.

    - In 2006 the Racial and Religious Hatred Act came into place which makes it an offence to use threatening words or behaviour intended to stir up religious hatred. This is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

    - The Terrorism Act 2006 criminalises ‘encouragement of terrorism’ which includes making statements that glorify terrorist acts,. It is an offence even if the person or group making the statement doesn’t intend to encourage terrorism, which makes it a bit difficult for people to speak out about oppressive regimes.

    In recent years, social media such as Facebook has been used for people to share extreme points of view. For years now, Facebook has served as a catalyst for violence against the Rohingya and it really upset me to find out that the creators haven’t been doing anything to stop it.

    On Monday this week, a report in the New York Times found that the military have been running a massive campaign to distribute dangerous propaganda against the Rohingya, drawing in a large number of followers and indoctrinating them to believe that the violence is okay.
    According to the report, approximately 700 people assisted in the operation, which attracted users on Facebook by creating pages such as one for “Burmese pop stars, models and other celebrities, like a beauty queen with a penchant for parroting military propaganda.” These accounts, which were controlled by the military, then posted misinformation targeted at the Rohingya. Often, they even posted sham photos of corpses that they said were evidence of Rohingya-perpetrated massacres! I found this really shocking- how can they have been allowed to do this? It’s completely wrong!

    In August, Facebook finally did something about this and announced that it had banned Myanmar military officials and organizations from its website.
    On Monday this week, Facebook updated its post from August to say that it had taken down an additional 13 pages and 10 accounts “for engaging in coordinated, inauthentic behaviour on Facebook in Myanmar.”
    It is fortunate that Facebook decided to act in the right way- preventing freedom of speech where it was leading to increased violence and discrimination towards the Rohingya.

    I found my information on speech offences here:
    https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/human-rights/free-speech-and-protest/speech-offences

    I found the article on Facebook’s statement here:
    https://gizmodo.com/facebook-bans-military-linked-pages-that-stoked-genocid-1829762723

    Reply to this comment
  • Tiff-Avatar.jpg Tiff @ the BNC
    4 days, 12 hours ago

    Hi BNC,

    A few of you have said that there is a line with free speech and you shouldn't say something that could cause harm to others.

    You've given legal examples such as the Public Order Act 1986 which states you can't use threatening or insulting words.

    Who should decide when something crosses the line? A joke to one person might be offensive to someone else. Does the victim get to decide? A judge? Newspapers?

    What are the risks of giving anyone the power to decide?

    Reply to this comment
  • Graveney-logo-250x250.jpg blessed_computer
    Graveney School4 days, 9 hours ago

    I agree with you, however what if someone wanted to say something that could be deemed very offensive but it was very important to a discussion; I think it would be wrong to prosecute someone just for saying something that cannot be said in any other way. For example, some aliens come to our planet, but it turns out that they carry diseases that can wipe out the whole of humanity. It would not be very nice for the aliens if we said that they were dangerous to Earth but there would be no other way of saying the truth. People can say horrible things but sometimes there is no other way to say the truth.

    Reply to this comment
  • Elaine-logo-250x250.jpg openminded_skill
    Elaine Primary School8 hours, 36 minutes ago in reply to Tiff @ the BNC's comment

    Great point! I think that you should be able to say something to the Prime Minister as, after all, they are the people running your country. However, in this society you aren't aloud to disagree for some reason but I don't understand why.

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