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The Illusion of Free Speech

Freedom of speech, the whole reason why we started off in the first place! There is a
reason that the Freedom of Speech has been enshrined as a primary freedom in almost all the
democratic constitutions of the world. The meaning of this freedom indeed differs from
country to country. But at the root, we all know that it certainly has much wider implication
than a mere promise of safety and judicial intactness.
Lets talk about what freedom of speech really means and why it has been so important.
To grasp the importance of the freedom of speech, we need to understand the consequences
of lack of freedom of speech. Countries like Estonia, North Korea, China and others are well
known for screening information from their citizens. These might be such sensitive matters
that may indulge the public in interests not aligning to those who control expressions. But
someone living in North Korea or China or a few African countries for that matter, knows
that the details of daily functioning of the government are being kept away from them. They
know they are being fooled and sooner or later they are going to do something about it.
Lets face it, we all know that there is not complete transparency in any nations
government and they all hide information from their citizens. When we do know these things
and still we keep quiet about it, it defies the founding principles of democracy. And believe us
when we say that this happens not just in India, but across the United States, Japan,
Germany, UK, France and the likes.
We are not saying that as a citizen of a particular country we need all the information
about the country. We do understand that there are things that cant be disclosed on grounds
of national security but not all things hidden or said to fall under these categories actually do.

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During our research, we came across some data that you might find interesting.

Surprisingly enough, the situation remains below satisfactory in over 120 countries
across the world. This means that way over half of the world today is living either in certain
absence or the illusion of free speech.
At this point, sure, your mind will speculate a question like, How the hell is this going
to affect a common Indian youngster/ citizen/ man/ woman like me?
Lets see the collective figures for a moment. The freedom of press index in India is
poorer than almost 127 countries across the world. Thats a staggering number. Because the
last time we checked, the Freedom of Speech and expression and the freedom of holding
opinions was a right not bound by any geographical boundaries (according to a Supreme
court decision) and we have quoted that in an earlier post.
Freedom of Speech is a misunderstood concept and therefore is not paid much
attention to. Freedom of speech doesnt mean that you can blabber whatever comes into your
mind. It is a right, a facility, provided to you for the times when you feel unjust by the system
or want to give your opinion about anything. As Stanley Fish puts it, there is no such thing as

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free speech (in the sense of unlimited speech). Freedom of expression, in truth, is always
observed in relation to other values. It cannot exist in absolute. The more we value it, the
more controversial it becomes and the higher is the buzz around it because only when other
values become more important than the freedom of expression, we might be forced to (as in
the case of national security) put limitations on the value of expression and the controversy
begins as we already stated.
As Fish puts it, free speech in short, is not an independent value but a political
prize (1994, 102) in the sense that, free speech is just a term to focus our attention on a
particular form of human interaction. No society has yet existed where speech has not been
limited to some extent.
Emphasising on the foundation of freedom of speech, Haworth (1998) suggests that a
right to freedom of speech is not something we have, not something we own, in same way as
we possess arms and legs. Speech is important because we are socially situated and it makes
little sense to say that Robinson Crusoe has a right to free speech. It only becomes necessary
to talk of such a right within a social setting, and appeals to an abstract and absolute right to
free speech obstructs rather than helps the debate. (Text taken from here)
We would like to conclude that the free speech that our country has is fairly limited
when we put against other nations and that the concept of free speech depends on the society.
But when we do not use our right to freedom of speech, we end up being citizens of a Free
India without the real freedom. Things like Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act
2000 keep pulling us down all the time in terms of what we can and cannot publish. It is the
classic example of a pointless law that allows for conviction under petty circumstances of
illusional defamation. That's what we thought when we looked at it. You lawyers are free to
use it your way.
So the apparent cure is only one. The cure is to scream. The cure is to speak. The cure
is to put our life in line for our children. And it doesnt have to be that drastic actually.
We can start by being okay when someone speaks against a religion, your religion. We
can be indifferent towards people who have evasive opinions. We should not let useless

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propaganda writers mend our opinion about the idea of an ideal nation. Shun the
communal. Stand tall as a human.
This is going to be a long process, and we know that. But just imagine, someday decades
from now, the politicians who will contest elections and the legislative thatll form laws wont
be corrupt or obliged to religious groups. We will have humans governing humans.
Raising our voice is a task both daunting and scary when not done in large groups. The
idea of using the real freedom of speech can be pretty unsetteling to say the least. So, we
decided to use the gift of anonymity to empower people. You dont always have to be right in
what you write nor do you have to be morally correct. You dont have to be serious or
relevant. You only need to be free from the shackles of intellectual slavery and mental
prostitution that the day to day life has thrown us into. You dont have to be socially
appropriate, just be content.
Be you.
Be expressive.
Be anonymous.

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