The term freedom of speech refers to being at liberty to express one’s opinions, views, and opinions without any hindrance or fear of being punished. Even though there is freedom of speech as provided in the constitution of every country, regulations have been provided to guide it to ensure that no one abuses this right. Without these rules, other people might attempt to take the right so far as to destroy others. That is why freedom of speech has never been treated as absolute; the much-known restrictions are on the cases of incitements, defamation, blasphemy, conspiracy, and slander, just to mention a few (Harry & Richard, p. 47).
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But even though the right of speech cuts across everyone under the sun, it needs to be revised and looked at differently when it comes to mentally ill persons. This is a group of people who are not in a position to put all their senses to use and reason like sane persons. It will be therefore unfair to punish them the same way a sane person could have been in case of a violation of the said regulations. Sentiments that fall under profanity should be fully considered a violation of the regulations guarding freedom of speech, thus tantamount to punishment under a court of law.
Regulations Guarding the Freedom of Speech
The regulations are meant to protect against the violation of other people’s rights. In most, if not all constitutions in every country, rights have been described as the carrying out of one’s feelings, views, and opinions as stipulated within the law. But as much as we are carrying out this right, we are not supposed to be intervening in other people’s rights too. Incidences of defamation and obscenity have to be censured and considered a criminal offense instead of being taken as a right. Such kinds of speech of that nature are a threat to public interest since they may cause controversy and conflicts. Imagine a situation where the press has decided to talk ill of an individual, the number of people who will get the wrong information is great and that person might have his/her individuals interests damaged. Such speeches are classified under libel and slander [this category is limited by simply the threat of tort action]. Another category is that of profanity and obscenity that are regulated by the law because of their ability to inflict serious damage to society. It is therefore an overall feeling that this right provides a rationale, wide enough to allow for the recognition of freedom of speech as basic civil liberty…but the restrictions have to stand (Congressional Testimony, 1993).
Rights of the mentally ill
It is common knowledge that the mentally ill are not in a position to evaluate and assess what they are saying as opposed to their mentally upright counterparts, that is why the law limiting freedom of speech should be applied to them sparingly. They might not be aware that they are doing anything wrong when they go overboard with their speeches. A recommendation should be made by those in authority to put a clause in the constitution under the freedom of speech to allow for the right of the mentally ill to be preserved. This adjustment will ensure that the rules will not apply equally to people in all circumstances, but will define the person’s condition i.e. state of mind.
From this essay, we can therefore conclude that as much as people exercise their freedom of speech, they have to be censored and boundaries were drawn for them to protect the interest of those that may be affected by such acts. Under international law, the right of speech is defined by several instruments of human rights as freedom of expression (Polenberg & Frederick, p. 198). [The term (expression) is mostly preferred since it draws less restriction and does not confine the right to verbal speech alone, but spreads to any such action in seeking or receiving any information regardless of the medium used]. To sum up, let’s adopt Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s philosophy “I might disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.” So let us all support the freedom of speech but define the context in which it should be practiced and to who the restrictions will apply.
- Congressional Testimony: “The Internet in China: A Tool for Freedom or Suppression?” Microsoft.com. 2008.
- Harry Kalven, Jr & Richard: “A Worthy Tradition: Freedom of Speech in America” (1988): 33-171.
- Polenberg F. Faiths & Frederick Schauer: “The Abrams Case, the Supreme Court, and Free Speech” (1987): 122-314.