31 May 2011

Freedom of expression

The major part of the provision about freedom of expression is based on the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because it puts rather great emphasis on it, incidentally also the Chapter of Fundamental Rights takes over its words for the most part.

I take over the provision of the first letter almost all from the Universal Declaration, from its article 19. It speaks about the right to take any thoughts and to share them with everybody and in whatever way. The provision is formulated almost comprehensively and it is sufficient also in the present time. Therefore, I add only one provision to this article, the provision that is included in the section 2 of the article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and also in constitutions of most European states, namely that the freedom of mass media must not be restricted. This statement however seems to be too common to me, therefore I added some words about restrictions by the political power (people mostly have just it in mind if they speak about freedom of expression) but also by the economic power (freedom of expression steps aside if it hinders from making profit; for example, nobody certainly doubts about power of private mass media) and by another one (I have in mind the religious power first of all).

If it is determined that everybody has the freedom to spread his opinions in whatever way, a question must arise whether everybody has also a right to spread such opinions that would lead to unleashing violence in the society or would otherwise threaten the life of the society and lives and rights of its members. This question can be answered in two ways: that the freedom of expression is absolute and cannot be restricted, that the society will cope with potential manifestations of intolerance and will not permit to be influenced by them. However, we know examples from the European history that the society was not always able to resist to manifestations of intolerance and that a catastrophe occurred, especially in the modern times. The history therefore demonstrates that the freedom of expression cannot be absolute, that some opinions are dangerous for the society and it cannot be allowed to spread them in the society. It is, beside guaranteeing freedom of expression has the European constitution also determine that the freedom can be restricted, it must however explicitly be determined that the only reason for that is protection of human rights of other persons and protection of democratic arrangement.

Expression of religious faith belongs also to expression of personal conviction, I place it therefore in this article. In principle, I take over again the respective provision of the Universal Declaration (article 18), I only add words about freedom to be without religious faith behind the words about the freedom to change religion – it may be included in the general words of the article 18 of the Universal Declaration about freedom of religion, but with regard to the role that religion plays in the society, it is better to emphasize it with separate words.

I completed the provision of the same letter (c) with one another sentence which is an analogy to the provision of the letter (b) – such as stands that the freedom of expression has to be restricted in cases of necessity for the sake of protecting democratic arrangement and freedoms of other citizens, it must stand in expressing religious faith too. The European Convention on Human Rights speaks about that in its article 9: Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. I believe that it is said concisely and that this sentence should be present in the text of the European constitution.

The last letter of this short article concerns also the religion. I took it over from the Irish constitution which says that the state will not support any individual religion; I only replaced the state with the public power.