Freedom of speech and expression: a ruse?

Humans are categorized as different from animals on the basis of a defining characteristic “self consciousness”. This feature states that we have the ability to be aware of our surroundings and be aware in general about our thoughts, emotions and words. Being in a society that constantly asks for certain order and rules according to which everyone is expected to behave ,our words and thoughts have to be filtered before voicing them out. “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek and receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” proclaims the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights (1948).

These rules and regulations have been made part of our constitution. The right to freedom of speech and expression is subject to limitations imposed under Article 19(2). Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution says that all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one’s own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode.

Freedom of expression has four broad special purposes to serve:

1) It helps an individual to attain self-fulfillment.

2) It assists in the discovery of truth.

3) It strengthens the capacity of an individual in participating in decision-making.

4) It provides a mechanism by which it would be possible to establish a reasonable balance between stability and social change.

5) All members of society would be able to form their own beliefs and communicate them freely to others

Bearing all this fundamental information about freedom of speech and expression lets talk about the ongoing onslaught on comedians in India. Agrima Joshua, a comedian from Mumbai, faced the online mob who attacked her on social media. Some of the trolling had to do with her political views, some with the religious community to which she belongs.  Joshua took a dig at some of the outlandish claims made about a proposed statue of medieval Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji. The online mob made sure to misrepresent the content of the video, claiming that Joshua was ridiculing Shivaji – rather than simply mocking the absurd claims made by supporters of the statue. The online audience in response decided to step up their game and started posting their own videos involving graphic rape threats and went so far as to vandalize the place the sketch took place in. A series of disappointing events including the siding of the Maharashtra government with the online mob and comedians coming out and apologizing for their videos followed.

All these events are misuse of the right to freedom of expression or not is the main question to ponder on. Is it okay for people to voice their opinions whether wrong or not? On one side artists are encouraged to talk about political and happening topics in the country to generate awareness while on the other when they do they are reprimanded for misusing their freedom of speech. Where is the line drawn? Expressing the online mob’s dislike towards the video could be done in a civilized way rather than giving rape threats. Will females be dragged down by asserting dominance using rape every time they validate their right to freedom and expression. The digging up of religion hurting statements continued for several other comics who came up and apologized for their videos. And yet their personal details (address, mobile number, etc) were circulated online.

 The misuse of freedom of expression has reached to its peak now. Enough for us to question what is right or wrong and what can be voiced out in public and what cannot. The standup comic scene is definitely going to be very different post Covid19 and also every public speaker is going to face more of the online mob hunting. As the youth of the country its our responsibility to exercise our right of freedom of expression and speech in a conscientious manner.

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