Freedom of speech is a privilege and not a right?



Freedom of speech is a privilege and not a right?
By Zan Azlee

The Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Salleh Said Keruak recently posted on his blog that the Internet is collectively owned by global citizens. Hence, no one person or party can actually control it.

He also says that Internet users need to be able to differentiate between truth, half-truths, innuendoes and lies on the Internet. Okay, that is pretty matured and rationale of him to say so.

But then if we look at how the media is being blocked, banned and censored by agencies that fall under his ministry’s jurisdiction, you would think that he doesn’t believe what he is saying.

You would think that the government actually either doesn’t trust us to want to make the proper decisions based on the information we get, or that we are just not intelligent enough to do so.

Wouldn’t the right way to do things would be to allow the different perspectives to be represented in the media so the people can then make an educated decision on their own?

As long as all the information are credible and verifiable, which should be what is regulated rather than points of views, then it would really be promoting and encouraging intellectual discourse.

And only then, the blog post that the minister posted (which is titled “Understanding constructive and mature discourse”, by the way) would really mean something.

But hold on. In the same blog post, he also says that people tend to forget that freedom of speech and expression is a privilege and not a right.

Okay, stop right there. That explains it all.

I have to say that I totally disagree with this statement. Freedom of speech and expression is a human right. It is even stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

So leave our freedom of speech and expression be. It is our right. Don’t block, ban and censor the media. There are already adequate laws that can help regulate responsible media practices.

Take the Defamation Act 1957 for example. Under it, there are rules pertaining to slander and libel that prevents people from expressing false information and accusations against others.

The media is definitely under the purview of this law. If something something false appears in print, in would be considered libel, and if it is uttered on video or audio, it would be slander. Once proven, of course.

Now wouldn’t that suffice? I would have to say so. So stop using using intimidation tactics on the media. Then at least the country’s fourth estate won’t be undermined.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

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