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Freedom Of Expression Should Have Limitations

Updated on March 27, 2018


A human’s ability to utter his/her reflections is one of his distinctive characteristics. Realizing such importance, most of the major legal maneuvers favor its unrestrained compliance. United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and constitutions of Pakistan, Britain and the United States etc, to name a few, ensures its provision as a birthright. A state or any other social entity needs a harmonious order for smooth functioning and such, in turn, demands proper implementation of various checks and balances. For instance, the probability of an unbridled horse to get out of track is far more than the one controlled by his master. Similarly, the human body needs a mechanism to control its activities, which if left unnoticed can lead to undesired consequences. The apothegm “words once said can never be returned” requires judicious utilization of verbal ability. This signals proper regulations to restrain such humanly trait. Our history is abundant of catastrophic events which, otherwise, could have been prevented had the right to free speech been exercised the right way.


Intolerable Nature of Human Mind

Psychologically, a human mind is too intolerable to witness any attack on his value system. Similarly, like a rubber band, a society’s tolerance has a threshold crossing which can lead to irreparable damages. The incident of lynching Mashal Khan, a student of Mardan University, by an unruly mob went viral soon after its occurrence. Irrespective of the context, the news speaks volumes about how intolerable a community can be if left uncontrolled. Investigations are still underway and criminals are being apprehended by the law enforcement agencies. However, the loss is irreparable and event cannot be undone.


Murder on Campus: The story of Mashal Khan - BBC Newsnight

Significance of a belief system

Any society, for its existence, incorporates some core values and beliefs. Such beliefs are, to a large extent, inflexible and the majority does not permit any compromise over them. Unrestrained freedom of speech can, therefore, result in attempts to tarnish the value system which will further result in chaos, violent agitations and a disharmonious society. Besides, the ideological frontier which determines the salient features of a community’s past also demand special attention. Evolution of a society and changes in the international socio-political paradigms can give rise to rebellious elements which openly challenge the existing ideologies. Since ideologies do come with various supporters, suchlike attempts are intolerable most of the times.

Multidimensional nature of a society

A society has people from various walks of life. It includes elements of different creeds, religions and social orders etc. The particular governance and administrative structure must allow their peaceful coexistence. This stipulates an environment which can offer respect of the variety in beliefs. For instance, the religious seminaries do not tolerate any sort of disrespect. If there is no control over freedom of expression, the probability of one group desecrating religious values of another group are far more. Memories from the incident of Babri Mosque that occurred in India in 1990s still are still alive and speak volumes about the dangers of ignoring a minority’s sentiments.

Emergence of unorthodox ideologies

One’s unrestrained freedom to express his/her ideas, irrespective of their nature, can help him find the like-minded elements in short time. This can give rise to gangs who challenge the existing values, rules and laws etc, and are, to a large extent, significant in their propagating their influence. Then, the state’s law enforcement agencies will find it difficult to apprehend suchlike activities owing to public-strength. It has been reported that various criminal gangs carry on their activities surreptitiously via social media. If the existing law restricts the usage of social media, for instance, suchlike evil groups can easily be traced and apprehended. For instance, a simple discourse among few individuals went from Facebook to household levels and sparked revolutionary rebellions in Egypt, which were uncontrolled by the administrative machinery.

Preventing violent extremism through education

Vulnerability to anti-state doctrines

There is informative material and documental evidences etc which are crucial for a country’s security and demand utmost confidentiality. If media is free and there are mild restrictions then the corporate elements can easily fall prey to anti-state agendas. For instance, the nuclear power plants, sensitive buildings and defense agreements etc, are not always open for public. In today’s tech-fueled living style where a short sentence or a simple snap followed by an ‘enter’ key can easily find its way to the other corner of globe protecting sensitive information if far more important and demands strict uncompromising censoring regulations.


Intolerance as an anathema

History is replete of events in which excessive freedom of speech resulted in intolerable situations. For instance, Salman Rushdie gave his jumbled thoughts a literary shape in his book ‘Satanic Verses’. The script incited violent protests and rebuke from Muslims all over the world. For Rushdie it was a literary and for Muslims it was an unbearable attempt to tarnish their religious values. Controversies are natural and the fact aside, broadcasting one’s thoughts without any moral or legal restrictions is susceptible to invite wrath and anger.


One’s freedom of expression as another’s ideological holocaust

It was the freedom of speech that made the French magazine Charlie Hebdo and Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten publish sacrilegious cartoons. Since the cartoons openly attempted to tarnish the character of Muslim's Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the consequences went far beyond the world-wide protests and included terrorist events such as bomb-blasts in Paris and shooting in Texas. Some clerics, even, went to the extent of announcing inception of new crusades. For one country it was freedom of speech exercised as a birthright and for 3.2 billion Muslims, it was an unforgiving attack on uncompromising values. Such diversity need to be respected in all realms. It is possible by introducing regulations acknowledging the fact that free-speech can have ill-consequences.

Charlie Hebdo Protests Sweep Muslim World | NBC Nightly News


To sum up, excess of everything is bad and so is the case with excessive freedom of speech. Therefore, to reduce the probability of any undesirable incident resulting from misuse of such freedom, checks and balances are required. Had such checks been obliged by the Western world, the incidences of Charlie Hedbo and Jyllands-Posten publishing blasphemous cartoons would have been prevented.

Do you agree that freedom of expression should have limitations?

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    • right1 profile imageAUTHOR

      right one 

      9 months ago from Pale Blue Dot

      Dear Eric Dierker,

      Thanks for your comments.

      'Freedom of expression' is not an issue at all but a right in today's global village.

      However such right must be exercised in a gentle manner. To ensure that, there is a need of regulatory check. Such regulatory and legal check is a limitation, which i think is mandatory.

      We are living in post-modernist times and controversies/ideological conflicts etc are common. But such controversies must not lead to extreme unorthodox movements and actions. One way is to ensure checks and give such discourses a legal touch so that potential harms are reduced.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      9 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wow, it is refreshing to read such an anti-free speech hub. From my spectrum I thought this a fully sarcastic hub at first. Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Hitler and at the fall of the Roman Empire all subscribed to your view. They all accomplished a whole lot in their respective reigns and civil society was docile there as well.

      There are a ton of restrictions on speech from; inciting a riot, yelling fire in a crowded theater, defamation....


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