To me, freedom of speech is an individual’s right and ability to share their beliefs and opinions on multiple issues, especially on issues which affect their lives.
Considering the recent claims that the government wants to charge a well-known and often controversial Reverend and secondary school teacher for statements he made at a meeting, many Barbadians (people from Barbados) may say that freedom of speech does not really exist. In fact they may go as far as defining freedom of speech as the right to speak without saying what you really want to say.
In a very basic way, we all know that one person’s rights/ freedoms end where another person’s rights/freedoms begin. Thus freedoms are not infinite. For example, in law, there is the concept of defamation. Defamation essentially limits a person from speaking ill of another (especially when those statements lack veracity).
According to an online legal encyclopedia:
Defamation law tries to balance competing interests: On the one hand, people should not ruin others’ lives by telling lies about them; but on the other hand, people should be able to speak freely without fear of litigation over every insult, disagreement, or mistake. (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/defamation-law-made-simple-29718.html)
The right to speak freely without fear of litigation, being ostracized, or even losing your job ought to be hallmarks of any country claiming to be a democracy. No two people think alike and one should not therefore have to keep their opinion to themselves because of another’s insecurity. This is certainly not meant to condone deliberate acts of tarnishing one’s reputation. However, if individuals believe that a government leaves much to be desired, that the government is overtaxing its citizens and that the state of the economy is in shambles due to a lack of managerial competence on the part of the government, the citizens who are being affected and anyone who observes the situation and believes it to be the case has the right to say so. Likewise, anyone who believes that the government’s performance is nothing short of stellar equally has a right to state so.
Is it fair that a man should be in fear of losing his job in these economically precarious times, all because he exercised his democratic right? Not at all!
The statement the Reverend made was that the current administration was the worst ever. He was speaking from his experience. He did not incite a coup d’état. He did not defame the characters of any minister. He merely stated his opinion.
Two things are necessary. First people need to be made aware of their rights. This includes knowing their limitations. At the same time governments need to be okay with citizens giving performance appraisals as opposed to trying to stifle citizens’ voices.
A society can only flourish if there is difference of opinion. Everyone can have the same goal but it is unnatural for everyone to be on the same page.
In all things there needs to be a balance and thus reasonable limitations.
It would be a shame to have the emergence of another undemocratic democracy…