Freedom is one of the most precious possessions that we can have. For centuries, men have fought and died for freedom and this is still continuing today. As we all know, there are many in the world who have sacrificed comfort in life and freedom as a result of expressing what is in their hearts.
Freedom of speech refers to the right of the individual to express his views about matters of interest to him/her whilst freedom of the press would refer to the freedom of written word in printed form and that BOTH refer to the freedom of THOUGHT and are the outward expressions of our THOUGHTS.
George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four depicts a society where freedom of speech is denied and he argues there as to whether thought is possible without any external stimuli. (For more, please click here) The long and short of it is that distortion of facts, limiting areas of thought and expression, not only stagnates but destroys the human mind, creativity, potential and retards the development of relationship between man with himself and man with others!!!
Freedom of speech is not the freedom to hurt or harm others. Yet, some in our society who do the latter most insidiously, using others to hurt others be it in the political arena or in society. Personally, I strongly advocate that freedom should stem from a full, creative life which is satisfying for ourselves and can lead to the betterment and growth of society.
The ability to think and to speak are the two abilities that distinguish us from lower life forms. Thus, to me, the denial of these two basic freedoms is a DENIAL OF MAN’S HUMANITY!!! As long as conditions are repressive, thought processes cannot function normally.
A society that muzzles the press and the freedom of opinion may be equated with one that forbids THINKING and in doing so, will pave the way for it to stagnate. There is more to life than physical comfort and the possession of luxury items or non-essential comforts of life. Throughout the ages, man has fought and died for freedom. Like what I mentioned before, freedom of speech is fundamental to the functioning of democracy.
I opine that such types of freedom enable men to make life creative, progressive and meaningful. Stop. Think. Are we at that stage in Malaysia? Think hard.
We must remind ourselves that unfettered freedom is a chimera and can be a danger to the established order and the economic well-being of the country.
Freedom of the press (and blogosphere) must be used to bring to the fore the views of the public (and not that of the individual), whether they are critical of, or in support of the government; and it can even be a bulwark against government excesses.
Intelligent opinions and constructive criticisms should not be smothered, for such suppression can create a groundswell that is inimical to the government. As bloggers and even journalists, we must always remember that views that are inimical to the state, if given free scope, can spell disaster e.g. sowing the seeds of discord. History shows that in countries where restrictions were placed on such freedoms, the dictatorial regimes fell. This happened in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan etc. where the rulers insulated themselves against political criticism and this led to their death or downfall.
Take a look at what Malaysiakini reported here:
In the latest 2008 ranking, Malaysia fell eight spots to 132. Last year, it was placed 124th while in 2006, it was at 92.
Asia Sentinel reported here that :
I dream of a Malaysia where we have an enlightened government that allows freedom in communication, criticism, change and growth and that the government will always remember that by restricting such freedoms to avoid criticism to preserve a static condition, they are actually sowing the seeds for ultimate destruction!!!
The people in East Berlin courted arrest in order to preserve those forms of freedom discussed here. Deep thinkers who have freshness of thought and expression, incisive writing, fearlessness, a drive to seek justice etc. would find it absolutely suffocating to be limited by any restrictions. More important than bread or economic well-being is the freedom by which man wants to live.
To live without freedom is to live in fetters, and one’s personality should not be lost in an attempt by certain characters to force one to be subservient to a system or a person. Yet, freedom, when not misused, is a boon. With freedom, comes responsibility - responsibility in reporting, blogging, speaking and expressing our thoughts. So, the betterment of society depends on the right exercise of freedom which should not be taken away from us in any guise, rhetoric or policy.
It is my hope that the government, together with the rest of society will nourish our freedom (speech and press) perhaps to the same level as that of the British from whom we learned the principles of democracy.
For further reading on why freedom of expression is good for us, check out this excellent article at Aliran.
Copyright © masterwordsmith 2009.