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Although freedom of speech is now guaranteed under the constituition of most of the democratic countries, there are certain things that are not allowed and we aren't free to shoot from the mouth such things as Obscenity, incitement to illegal action, Defamation, and Blasphemy. There are also regulations, laws and normms on things like publishing, advertising and harassment, about which activists of press freedom are concerned and are struggling to remove flaws and excesses. Censorship of press is being abandoned from most countries. Censor boards for movies are now taking more liberal views in South Asia and Far East but not in Afghanistan and Pakistan where extremist elements object even to female models for advertising but their despotic and bigoted attitude is criticized by moderate Muslims.

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. linguist, political analyst..

While familiarizing with the international norms for Freedom of Expression we look for guidance from Holy Quran and Hadith and are rewarded with sound advice for our conduct. In verse 023.003 of Holy Quran we are advised to avoid vain talk. In verse 017.053 we are advised to say those things that are best for Satan sows dissensions among the believers and that the Satan is to man an avowed enemy.

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.
John Milton (1608–74), English poet.

Freedom of Expression

By Shah Nawaz Khan

Founder and Moderator of Internet Discussion Group Pakistan Post
Follow @link2shah

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. This is a paraphrase of Voltaire's sentiments in his Essay on Tolerance. In 1770, that great French philosopher and a leader of enlightment wrote to M. le Riche: "Monsieur l'Abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write."

S

ince the last century, leaders like Adlai Stevenson have been advocating free speech and regard that the first principle of a free society is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum. Although freedom of speech is now guaranteed under the constituition of most of the democratic countries, there are certain things that are not allowed and we aren't free to shoot from the mouth such things as Obscenity, incitement to illegal action, Defamation, and Blasphemy. There are also regulations, laws and normms on things like publishing, advertising and harassment, about which activists of press freedom are concerned and are struggling to remove flaws and excesses. Censorship of press is being abandoned from most countries. Censor boards for movies are now taking more liberal views in South Asia and Far East but not in Afghanistan and Pakistan where extremist elements object even to female models for advertising but their despotic and bigoted attitude is criticized by moderate Muslims.

Although the freedom of press in US and most of Europe is considered exemplary, we hear vioces for reforms. Today, many leading papers and magazines are in the clutches of big business. Many are now part of some vast conglomerate with Television and many news and entertainment products. The companies are publicly listed on the and their shareholders want to see bigger earnings each and every quarter. Whole issues of a magazine or a paper can now be sponsored by a single corporate advertiser. This, at a minimum, raises questions about just how independent the editors are from those who buy the ads or own large chunk of shares. It is widely believed that the planned and sustained campaign in the Western media to demonize Islam is directed by the big business owned by American and European Jews and pro-Zionists elements.

In great many countries Blasphemy has been a crime of speaking or publishing words that vilify or ridicule God, the Bible, or religious beliefs. Scurrility and a resultant tendency to provoke a public disturbance are the criteria for blasphemy. Laws provide punishment for it but are held to be in consonance with the laws that protect freedom of speech. Blasphemy is still a crime in Britain and in most of the United States, but prosecutions are now rare.

British novelist of Indian descent, Salman Rushdie whose book The Satanic Verses (1988) was banned in several Islamic countries. In 1989 Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared that Rushdie and everyone involved in the book's publication should be put to death. Although Rushdie offered an apology, the punishment was not withdrawn he remains in hiding with rare public appearances in the West. In 1990 he said in an interview to Guardian, "What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist."

Rushdie now lives life a scared rat hiding in holes and mostly travelling incognito or in disguise. Irshad Manji the Ismaili woman and author of The Trouble with Islam seems to be one his admirers.

In Pakistan the measures taken by Zia regime to Islamize banking and introduce Hudood Ordinance are now considered full of flaws. A Commission headed by Justice Majidah Rizi is said to have recommended many modifications. The caluses of Huddod Ordinace specially those relating to Blasphemy law are not considered to be in exact consonance with Quran and Sunnah.

Laws regarding Defamation vary from country to country and generally it is regarded as the act of damaging the reputation of another by means of false and calumnious communications. In common law, defamation in writing is classified as libel, and oral defamation as slander. In most countries Libel suits are almost always pursued as civil actions for financial damages. The targets of claims are often the mass media. However, libel suits against nonmedia defendants can arise. But in countries like Saudi Arabia and other Kingdoms there is no telling what would happen to someone accused of defaming the royal family or some important member of the ruling elite.

In democratic countries in most cases actual injury must be proved before financial damages may be awarded. If proved, damages are available for monetary losses—such as loss of business or of a job—as well as for other types of losses, including harm to the victim's reputation or emotional distress. In addition, punitive damages (aimed to punish the libeler rather than to compensate the victim) have also been awarded but clever people can escape any punishment as seen in many scandals of sexual indiscretion involving famous personalities.

As one Indian writers opines among the grounds on which free speech may legitimately be subjected to reasonable restrictions is contempt of court. However, this is also an area where, despite the maturing of the democratic tradition over the last five decades and more, the balance is sharply tilted against the press and others who seek to exercise their fundamental right to freedom of expression. The definition of contempt is so elastic and open to subjective interpretation and the process itself is so unfair — with the court acting as the complainant, prosecutor, and judge rolled into one — that a person charged has little chance of getting away with anything other than an apology. It is a power that the Supreme Court itself has described in one of its judgments as "a vague and wandering jurisdiction with uncertain frontiers.

Things in Pakistan have been worst than India but both in India and Pakistan from the standpoint of the press and the media, it inhibits vigorous debate and generates a tendency to play safe when reporting and commenting on matters relating to the judiciary and in Pakistan military junta too. However it must be appreciated that never before we have seen such freedom of media as allowed by he present regime but still there is a long way to go to achieve the freedom according to international norms and as depicted in the following quote:

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. _Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. linguist, political analyst.

While familiarizing with the international norms for Freedom of Expression we look for guidance from Holy Quran and Hadith and are rewarded with sound advice for our conduct. In verse 023.003 of Holy Quran we are advised to avoid vain talk. In verse 017.053 we are advised to say those things that are best for Satan sows dissensions among the believers and that the Satan is to man an avowed enemy.

In verse 006.068 we are told that when we see men engaged in vain discourse about Allah's signs, we should turn away from them unless they turn to a different theme. If Satan ever makes us forget, then after recollection, we should not thou in the company of those who do wrong.

In Western culture there is a special place in literature for satire and insults involving wit and humor. But in Islam we are advised to avoid that and slander, lies, distortions, exaggerations, erotic and vulgar expressions are regarded sinful.

*Successful indeed are the believers,
*Who are humble in their prayers,
*Who avoid vain talk;

AlQuran, 023.001 - 003

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