Is freedom of expression absolute?
Of all the conflicts that ever happened between the societies, nations, cultures and religions of the world, one reason in common – difference of opinion / difference of thought.
This disagreement if not controlled or contained causes damage to the integration of social structure which in turn leads to weak societies that are bound to fall.
The term ‘freedom of expression’ along with other freedoms (religion, opinions, rights etc) was introduced in the US in late 18th century to safeguard the uniqueness of individuals so that they can live their lives freely without any external power governing them.
The idea was new for the time, remembered as ‘age of slavery’, and transformed the lives of many. This concept spread all across the world and now we can hear this ‘freedom of speech /expression / press’ more often.
But as time went by and means of communications developed, the laws governing the term remained the same.
In a developing country like Pakistan, this term gets misused most of the time and it puts the country on the brink of internal conflicts very often.
Freedom of expression is a positive phenomenon if used with care and within limits, but what are the limits?
Everyone should have the right to have his/her opinion and none should be allowed to mock others’ opinion be it religious beliefs, cultural beliefs or any other personal beliefs.
One should only express freely on the matters that are public and not personal.
In Pakistan, electronic media remained the major source of information / expression since last decade and now a complex medium social media is taking its place.
We have seen the strong media houses misusing this freedom for mocking other institutions and segments of society and since they shape and control the narratives in the mind of people they remain untouchable.
This misuse has now started causing the damage to justified ‘freedom of speech’.
Some irresponsible media houses are even propagating narratives that can help enemy countries and are bent upon maligning state institutions while some social media campaigns directly aimed at the very stability of Pakistan are also polluting the minds of Pakistani youth.
It is high time for the opinion makers and the media houses to demand regulations from the government if they want to survive in the ever-changing dynamics of communication.