August 19, 2016

Free speech means responsible speech

By Thae Su

How do you define the responsible speech? The concept implies that anything at all can be said, because it is ‘free,’ but this is incorrect. Just because it is free, it does not mean that we can say whatever we want whenever we want to. Free speech should not incite hatred, violate the principles of human rights or unfairly hurt someone’s reputation. And each government around the world sets what it considers reasonable limitations on the concept of freedom in speech.
Some people do not take the time to read what is written in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so I will do so for you. The declaration defines freedom of speech in Article 19 as the rights to communicate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this rights include freedom to hold opinions without inference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of geography.
However contrary to what many assume, freedom of speech has limits. We have the rights to express ourselves freely so long as our expressions do not abuse other people’s rights or reputations. If we do so, we may face legal action. If what our words abuse others’ rights, reputation or morals, we cannot claim to be exercising our rights to free speech. That would be like saying that the rights to drive a car includes the rights to endanger others by speeding.
We need to think carefully about the impact our words may have on others. Since the democratic government took office in 2011, Myanmar’s media has gained new freedoms of speech. But the media must be responsible and carefully weigh up whether printing certain things will be of benefit or detriment to the public.
Freedom of speech must be exercised responsibly and respectfully. And we need to consider both the possible consequences and our genuine motives before we speak out. Without fulfilling our responsibilities, the public will be denied the true value of freedom of speech. So it can be said that freedom of speech is not the opposite of responsible speech, but rather the very same thing.


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