Freedom of Speech and Legal Boundaries
There are three assiduous things that make people pursue with consecutive efforts during life times: freedom, justice and love. Among these three pursuits, individuals have their own preferences. The pursuit of Freedom, however, is something invariably vital to seek. Expression freedom or freedom of speech, as the basis of freedom, therefore deserves more passionate pursuit. Freedom of speech is closely connected with the expression of one’s psychological activity and petition. More importantly,
freedom of speech is one basic right for people to participate in political life and to express their opinions on social affairs. Every citizen has this right and should be allowed to fully exercise it as they wish. Expression freedom is one essential component of democratic society, which usually indicates the level of the civilization in a democracy .
However, like other rights, the execution of freedom of speech has its specific constraints in real life, and the generally essential standard for the specific scope is that one should not violate or infringe upon the rights of others as well as the whole society.
Based on my understanding of freedom of speech, the definition, value and legal boundariesof freedom of speech are briefly discussed below.
1. Definition and value
1.1 The definition of freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is is a right for individuals to obtain or convey messages and thoughts via written, verbal or any other sorts of avenues. It consists of three aspects of freedoms:
(1) Freedom to seek and learn messages For the sake of surviving and thriving, people need to learn the objective world and change their surroundings with common efforts. For this concern, human being must be grouped into societies and communicate with each other, thereby one need to search and learn experience from others especially from predecessors, thus the freedom of seeking and learning information should be a necessity.
(2) Freedom of thinking and holding opinions Information accessed, serving as the source or materials for one’s philosophy, becomes one's thoughts, wills and opinions after being processed. Moreover, the thoughts, wills and opinions shall not suffer interference and imprisoning.
(3) Freedom of sharing information, ideas, thoughts via various measures This is the core content of freedom of speech and the most direct way to perform it. It plays a significant role in that people could understand, accept, disseminate and develop knowledge, experiences and the truth.
1.2 The value of freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right for every citizen and is of significant importance in social life. Human being’s survival and development cannot proceed alone without this freedom. The value of
free speech can be stated from both personal and social aspects.
1.2.1 The value of freedom of speech on individuals
(1) Freedom of speech help to realize one's self-worth. With freedom of speech, individuals are able to access various messages and transfer them into knowledge and experience, thus increasing one’s
capability. Moreover, the process of exchanging ideas and experience can further facilitate one’s linkage
with other social members and benefit for one’s participation in social life as well. The two points
above are good for self-value realization.
(2) Freedom of speech is the key to displaying one’s psychological activity and is benefit for one’s
pursuit of dignity and happiness. Whatever things individuals are to state, general thinking or specific political claim and proposition, they are all indispensable for people to gain respect and happiness. For this reason, freedom of speech provides a effective warranty for one’s pursuit of dignity
1.2.2 The value of freedom of speech on the society
(1) Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of democratic society. Freedom of speech is an inalienable part of democracy, is one of its basic characteristics. Free speech could provide supervision over and restriction on public power. Besides, it can promote dialogue between citizens, as well as
between citizens and government and its officials. What’s more, it can strengthen the sense of
democracy of citizens and enhance trust of government, thereby that shall set up the relationship between them.
(2) Free speech has the function of dredge social contradictions. In daily life, different thoughts will be produced by different people at any point of time. A institutional freedom of speech makes people have the opportunity to present comments and complaint, thus maintaining the stability of society.
(3) Freedom of speech can promote the development of the truth. Upon efficient dissemination and sufficient discussion, information and thoughts can progress to knowledge, experience and ultimately, the truth.
2. Legal boundaries of freedom of speech
Liberty, too, must be limited in order to be possessed (Edmund Burke). Like all kinds of rights, the right of free speech has its range. Freedom of speech, as a kind of legal rights, also should has specific legal boundaries. We can ascertain some boundaries by giving some rights or legal interests conflicting with freedom of speech at frequent intervals. In addition, when we are striking a balance between the freedom of speech and the relevant l interests of state conflicting with the former, we can also find specific legal limits in the particular field.
2.1 The exercise of free speech should not infringe upon the lawful rights and interests of others
Undoubtedly, the exercise of freedom of speech cannot infringe upon the privacy of others, not slander or insult. This is a relatively easy judgment, because abusing of the right to free speech to destroy legal interest, which is protected by law, does not conform to the value function of free speech.
However, the situation is not as to infringe upon the lawful rights and interests of others, on the contrary, it is precisely the exercise of freedom of speech with a positive performance: a public figure or government official has illegal actions, for example, his consumption level obviously not accords with his personal income. In such a case, revealing and conveying this particular information through a network media is not to infringe upon the privacy of the government official or public figure. Readily accessible, such action is to supervise the legitimacy of their actions.
2.2 The exercise of free speech should not infringe upon public interests
Given that effective protection of public interests is for the public to better exercise their all kinds of rights, the exercise of freedom of speech, certainly must not infringe on the social and public interests. For example, it is forbidden to spread messages of false danger and non-existent terrorist activities. Making speech and conveying information, as the basic forms of freedom of speech, shall be prohibited and published by law, when the speech and information cause panic or unstable social influence. Any conduct which violates the social public interest shall not be guaranteed by law and the community.
2.3 In the field of political life, the exercise of free speech should not infringe upon interests of the state
As to its origin, freedom of speech more means that citizens are free to participate in the political life and make expression and suggestion on governmental activities, and the exercise of public power. Therefore, in the field of political life, conflict is so likely to occur between the national interests and free speech that, particularly importance should be given to ascertaining the legal boundaries therein. Generally, the interests of the state should be limited in the fundamental interests, such as power attribution, sovereignty, and public security. Any speech made, having infringed upon these fundamental interests, should be considered as legitimate, thus law must takes sanctions against it. On the other hand, any speech about governmental activities, the disclosure of relevant public information, and the policies about social life must be a actively, proper exercise to freedom of speech, thereby it must should get strict and effective legal protection.
Any country that is highly democratic and culturally advanced will formulate laws to protect citizens' right to free speech, and a good government will grant freedom of speech to its citizens. In China, the existing constitution, civil law and criminal law have legislations on protection of citizens' freedom of speech and punishment to subjects who legitimately exert the rights. Obviously, our legislation falls short mainly in two aspects. One, it still lacks of concrete, meticulous cognizance of
exercising the right to freedom of speech and two, freedom of speech is NOT fully respected and guaranteed. These indicate the proper direction for our current endeavors in legislation. From my perspective, it will be of utmost importance that laws and policy be framed, issued to provide an effective channel of exercising the right to free speech.
Freedom of speech is all well but we must observe the limits of common propriety. To enforce freedom of speech in disregard of the rights of others would be harsh and arbitrary in itself. Freedom is always conditional and relative. When we are exercising the right to freedom of speech, it must be taken into our consideration that interests of others and public, and do NOT confuse liberty with license.
Only then can we better develop ourselves and promote the progress of the society as a whole.