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Freedom of Speech and Expression Opinion Essay


It is indeed true that the freedom of individual expression largely emanates from the level of autonomy granted. When our individual autonomies are restricted, the freedom of expression is also affected. This implies that autonomy is the epitome of the freedom of expression in many ways.

Nonetheless, a certain level of restriction is usually applied by authorities in cases whereby the granted autonomy may lead to chaos or disruption of peace (de Zayas & Martín, 2012).

Some critics argue that individual autonomies may be restricted on the basis of persuasive speech. However, expressive statements that are too persuasive may not necessarily be stopped by the government except in extraordinary situations when such speeches are meant to cause fear. If negative consequences are brought about by a speech, then it is justifiable for the authorities to inject some restrictions (Kendrick, 2014).

Needless to say, offensive speech cannot be allowed by the government because it does not go hand in hand with the tenets of true autonomy. It can be proper for a speech to be permitted even if it is persuasive so long as it does not offend others. Perhaps, this is the point of diversion between autonomy and restriction of the freedom of expression.

There are myriads of laws that have been established with the aim of reviewing the impacts of freedom of speech. A speech might be considered to be offensive in various ways. In some cases, individuals are offended by the freedom of speech if they suspect that the impacts will be negative (Temperman, 2011). Owing to the persuasion principle, the freedom of speech cannot be easily suppressed.

It is also interesting to mention that a given piece of speech can be offensive without necessarily being persuasive. In other terms, a speech might be intrinsically offensive (McLaughlin, Uggen & Blackstone, 2012).

Self-fulfillment of every individual is the main factor that drives the freedom of speech and expression. The latter is also instrumental when seeking the autonomy of individuals. Freedom of opinion and expression is one of the crucial political freedoms and fundamental freedoms practiced globally (Claybourn, 2011). It goes hand in hand with freedom of information and specifically freedom of the press.

The latter refers to the freedom for a newspaper owner to say or be silent about what he sees fit in his journal. It is subject to response by the courts for libel or slander. Defamation and slander are the main reasons why restrictions on the notion of freedom of expression for any public speech exists (Temperman, 2011).

For some scholars like Kant, freedom of expression is necessary since it elevates the inner thoughts of an individual. Of course, the freedom to speak or write can be taken away by a higher power. We can say that this external power that robs men the freedom to communicate their mind publicly, also removes the freedom of thought.

The latter is a clear indication that the freedom of speech and expression have notable clash with the autonomy prescribed by individuals. One of the ways that can be used to bridge the gap or balance the conflict is the adoption of internationally recognized pieces of legislation that bind every nation (Temperman, 2011). For instance, the freedom of opinion should be presumed as a basic right to every individual.

The Human Rights declaration does not specify the particular conditions or restrictions on the freedom of expression. Nonetheless, a number of jurisdictions under the umbrella of the United Nations and countries bound by the declaration tend to restrict this freedom since it prohibits the language that agitate for racial, national or religious hatred (Temperman, 2011).

Freedom of expression is often the first freedom eliminated in totalitarian regimes. Since the late twentieth century, the emergence of various forms of mass communication such as the Internet alongside the inability of states to adapt to such technological developments have led to several challenges.

As a result, there has been growing need to control the freedom of expression and take it over completely as it is the case with a country like China (Temperman, 2011).

Freedom of expression is subject to limitations that are prescribed by law and are deemed necessary to respect the rights and reputation of others. This means that restrictions are often imposed on the freedom of expression whenever deemed necessary.

For security reasons (for example repression of incitement to commit crimes or offenses), restriction on the freedom of expression may be imposed and consequently affect the autonomy of individuals. Second, protection of the rights of individuals may take place when there are possibilities of repression of public insult and defamation, or the fight against racial discrimination and denial.

When individuals or institutions can intervene formally to limit expression outside the restricted case, we talk about censorship. Sex and violence are among the topics covered most often by censorship.

Several states also have laws against blasphemy, that are considered by several secular activists as an attack on the freedom of expression. Therefore, freedom of expression remains restricted in several jurisdictions (de Zayas & Martín, 2012).

Freedom of expression also encounters a severe limitation with respect to private life and hence the autonomy of an individual.

Freedom of expression is perhaps not the first or most fundamental freedom (freedom of movement is the first freedom or the freedom that determines priority and takes precedence over others). Freedom of expression has been dismissed by some political theorists as a Western perspective or philosophy (Temperman, 2011).

During the 1960s, the freedom of expression was sought by a significant number of pressure groups following attempts to recurrent pornographic or immoral literature materials that were censored. Today, there are myriads of legislations in place that address offensive terms that may be used against minority groups or religions.

Regularly, writers and publishers are concerned about the resurgence of censorship. The reason given in most cases is not pornography, but hate speech. In the United States, a new anti paparazzi came into effect in California since January 1, 2010. It has been claimed by the actress Jennifer Aniston and supported by several other celebrities.

Sexual harassment is obviously a criminal offense punishable by law. If committed by an employee; it is liable to disciplinary action that should be taken by the employer. In the context of labor relations, sexual harassment can take many forms: blackmail hiring or promotion, threats of retaliation if a victim refuses to give in to sexual advances, and so on (de Zayas & Martín, 2012).

The harasser can be the employer, a colleague of the victim, a recruiting firm or a customer of an organization. It is the responsibility of employers to take all necessary steps to prevent acts of sexual harassment, stop it and even inflict punishment to the offenders. Sexual harassment entails the act of imposing an indecent act of sexual behavior and tendencies on a person.

This may take place repeatedly and eventually culminate into impairing of a person’s dignity. Sexual harassment may also be executed verbally to the detriment of the victim’s personal values. An employee can be intimidated by all forms of sexual harassment and finally limit his or her autonomy. An individual may also be grossly humiliated in a situation that entails sexual harassment.

The scope of protection of victims and witnesses of sexual harassment in the context of the employment relationship is one of the pointers that can be put into consideration when exploring the issue of autonomy and the freedom of expression or speech. Although there are labor laws in place, it is the responsibility of employers to make sure that victims of sexual harassment are safeguarded.

What sanctions can be taken against the perpetrator of sexual harassment? In any case, individuals who have been sexually harassed at workplace may lack the autonomy to perform as per the expected standards since they fear losing their jobs (de Zayas & Martín, 2012).

Labor inspectors are in particular responsible for ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Labor Code and other legal requirements relating to employment (Claybourn, 2011). They are responsible, in conjunction with the officers and agents of the judicial police, to report violations stated in the labor laws provisions.

Acts of sexual harassment committed by an employee should be fully subjected to disciplinary sanction by the employer.

I believe that there is a difference in ideology between the perspectives exemplified in the above section. Therefore, the freedom of expression and autonomy of individuals should be exercised within the provisions of the law in order to bridge the gap or minimize the prevailing conflicts.

References

Claybourn, M. (2011). Relationships between moral disengagement, work characteristics and workplace harassment. Journal of Business Ethics, 100(2), 283-301.

de Zayas, A., & Martín, Ã. R. (2012). Freedom of Opinion and Freedom of Expression: Some Reflections on General Comment No. 34 of the UN Human Rights Committee. Netherlands International Law Review, 59(3), 425-454.

Kendrick, L. (2014). Free Speech and Guilty Minds. Columbia Law Review, 114, 1255- 1295.

McLaughlin, H., Uggen, C., & Blackstone, A. (2012). Sexual harassment, workplace authority, and the paradox of power. American Sociological Review, 77(4), 625- 647.

Temperman, J. (2011). Freedom of expression and religious sensitivities in pluralist societies: Facing the challenge of extreme speech. Brigham Young University Law Review, 2011(3), 729-757.

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IvyPanda. "Freedom of Speech and Expression." June 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/freedom-of-speech-and-expression/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Freedom of Speech and Expression." June 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/freedom-of-speech-and-expression/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Freedom of Speech and Expression'. 23 June.

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