“I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”   -Voltaire

According to Article 19 of the Human Rights Declaration, everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information through any medium without worrying about the consequences. The chief theorist of the principle of freedom of expression was the 19th-century British liberal thinker John Stuart Mill. He argued that the only way society can progress is by letting human beings express their views freely.

Moreover, he said that the West transformed into the leading civilization of the world because freedom of expression underpinned the freedom of enquiry which made possible scientific research and discoveries. In addition to this, Voltaire is another influential philosopher whose name is closely associated with the idea of freedom of expression. It can further be gauged from the fact that freedom of speech has become a permanent part of all constitutions throughout the globe.

There are many important examples of freedom of expression. Firstly, freedom of speech plays a vital role in the creation of a tolerant and pluralistic society. This ensures that people of different colours, creed, class, sects and religion co-exist peacefully. This can be traced through the initiatives of the PTI-led government in Pakistan to open the Kartarpur corridor for the Sikh community and make temples in Islamabad for Hindus. Secondly, freedom of expression also plays a crucial role to flourish democratic culture in the country that causes the development of nations in the world.

Owing to the democratic culture and freedom of speech, the stakeholders pressurise the government to work for the welfare of society. Even the masses can protest against any action that the government takes. This helps safeguard democratic culture. It is because freedom of expression is the backbone of democratic culture. Thirdly, freedom of expression helps enhance accountability. Accountability is a key tenet of democracy that seeks to hold leaders, individuals and policymakers responsible for their decision. It states that no institution or individual is above the law. Last but not least, freedom of expression also helps get rid of all evils from society. No social evils can be eliminated until and unless people speak up against malpractices.

However, there are several examples that demonstrate how a society is worse off in the absence of the right to free speech. The United States, which considered itself the founder of the freedom of speech, failed to provide basic rights to their people according to the first amendment in their constitution. Besides this, many other countries also violate human rights and freedom of speech for their political gains. An example in this regard is the brutality seen by the Indian government in Kashmir. The horrific incident took place recently when an old man was killed in front of his grandson by the Indian Army.

This clearly depicts how denying freedom of speech causes bloodshed and unrest in the society.

To conclude, it can be stated that freedom of speech is as important for society as the heart is for humans. People gained this benefit through a long struggle. Therefore, the collaborative efforts of the international community are needed to ensure freedom of speech for people because it is the backbone of democratic culture.

BILAWAL ALI LAKHO,

Shikarpur.