1.0 Definition of Freedom of Speech and Expression
Freedom of Speech and Expression is one of the most important human rights in this democratic world and it was claimed to be considered as the fundamental principle of any theory of public communication. Freedom of Expression given the individual the freedom to seek, receive, impart information or ideas. Every individual is allowed to speech and express perspective aloud in any medium. The ways to voice out opinions such as word of mouth, published books, television or radio broadcasting, internet or even social media. Freedom of Speech refers to the individual has the power or right to express personal opinions without fear of retaliation, restraint, censorship or legal penalty. At the same time, this would harm the freedom of speech in certain area or region. Therefore, individual shall not take advantage to make any offensive content and ideas.
1.1 Historical Background – Freedom of Speech and Expression
Back to the historical background of Freedom of Speech and Expression, the spoken language started to develop more than one million years ago. On the other side, the written language has developed into better chronicled however not without historical debate.
It was all started in the 4th Century British Columbia (BC), written language systems had developed in southern Mesopotamia and Egyptian hieroglyphics that Sumerian, a cuneiform language was used from around 3200 BC and coincide with the ascent of the earliest human civilizations. Besides, in Indus Valley at 2200 BC, in China in 1200 BC and Mesoamerica around 600 BC, written language also developed independently. (Democracy Web)
Over some time, individuals wanted to express ideas while rulers wanted to control such expression to maintain their power over society. Around 5th Century BC, Socrates, the Father of Greek philosophy, supported free expression without obstacles. He stands up and declined to perceive the state of god. However, Pericles extolled freedom of speech as the characterizing qualification between a military dictatorship of Athens and Sparta. After the Peloponnesian Wars, Athens’s Assembly sentenced Socrates to death by as punishment for influencing individual’s mind like the instance of one of his student, who named Plato. Both Socrates and Plato played active roles in this trial and sacrificed a lot by spreading their thoughts and opinions to the jury. (Owen, 1998)
John Milton’s made some arguments on freedom of the speech. He is an English poet, pamphleteer and historian that wrote tracts about divorce, pre-publication licensing. He then proposed the system of censorship is abolished. (A Television Networks, 2016) He gained worldwide acclaim as a result of the political essay in 1644 “Areopagitica: A Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing”, that contented arguments against censorship and defended free speech. Free expression was a fundamental and unalterable freedom which ought to be prioritized. It can be defined in three distinct aspects. The individual has the rights for to seek and express the information and ideas. Individuals are given the right to receive then only impart and disseminate the information and ideas to the others. Disregarding it is illogical to assume that everything a government does will be done legitimately. In the event that individuals are allowed to talk, share thoughts and write about government policies whether it is right, wrong, offensive. The government will have some great improvements in the well-being of the people. Milton believes that the right to speak freely has restrictions; however, it is for the benefit of the public. (Online Library Liberty, 2004)
Later on, John Stuart Mill made some similar claims in On Liberty that thoughts should be free circulated. Additionally, he supports individuals to provide false opinions and pointing out the flaws. (Woolfe, 2013) Both Milton and Mill cared profoundly about allowing free speech in a similar way.
The appropriation of the United Nations (UN) was the essential institution for the freedom of speech. Its most critical instrument is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 which was adopted by a United Nation General Assembly Resolution. The Article 19 in the UDHR 1948 built up the worldwide standard for free expression. It is correspondence to the Article 10(1)(a) Freedom of Speech in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia., which affirmed the privilege to freedom of opinion and expression. It declares everyone has the freedom of opinion and expression of their human right. This right consists of freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. (United Nations)
1.2 The Law on Freedom of Speech and Expression
After the Constitution of Federation of Malaya, the Federation Constitution of Malaysia is formed, and it is considered as the supreme law in Malaysia. The Constitution of the Federation of Malaya is the establishment of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia today. It is drafted by Reid Commission that headed by Lord William Reid in order to plan a constitution for the preparation of a completely self-governing and autonomous Federation of Malaya. (Law Teacher, 2003)
By taking a look at these highlights, Reid Commission altered the fundamental rights and appear in the Federal Constitution as Part II entitled “Fundamental Liberties.” There is a total of 9 articles under Fundamental Liberties including:
Article 5 – Liberty of the Person
Article 6– Slavery and Forced Labour Prohibited
Article 7 –Protection against Retrospective Criminal Laws and Repeated Trials
Article 8 – Equality
Article 9– Prohibition of Banishment and Freedom of Movement
Article 10 – Freedom of Speech, Assembly and Association
Article 11– Freedom of Religion
Article 12 – Rights in Respect of Education
Article 13 – Rights to Property