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Freedom of expression

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    The struggle to openly exhibit one’s thoughts is not a new concept but it is going on unabatedly since centuries and with the censorship on Media creating its impact on every sphere of human consciousness, the question remained unanswered that is to what extent the Freedom of Expression should be allowed. In 480-486, the playwright Euripides in a defend for posing the true liberty of freeborn men added diplomatically: “Who neither can nor will may hold his peace. What can be more just in a State than this?”

    THE INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS (ICCPR)

    The freedom of Expression means an absolute right to express oneself, which is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights accepted by most nations but with modifications according to their law. Again on 23rd March 1976, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) treaty was signed. This treaty was based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is monitored by the Human Rights Committee, which has a group of 18 experts. Article 19 of ICCPR states that,

    1. Everyone has the right to express opinions without interference.

    2.  Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

    3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals.”1.

    FOOTNOTES:

    The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI) , entry into force 23rd March 1976, in accordance with Article 49. Office of the United Nations Higher Commissioner For Human Rights, extracted from http://www.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm#art19

    As on 5th February 2002, United Nations Treaty Collections, there are 160 state parties who are signatory to the The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In brief any signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is bound to promote freedom of expression and freedom of information for the sole purpose of healthy functioning of democracy; and it is a potent force to pre-empt repression, war and conflict. But this involves in it some exemptions like the law states that Freedom of Expression can legitimately be restricted if there is any harm to the national security1.

    Footnotes

    Article 19: Global Campaign For Free Expression submission To Panel Of Eminent Jurists On Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism And Human Rights – Article 19, London, 2006 –Index Number: Law/2006/042411. Summary Of Concern

    THE UNITED KINGDOM and ICCPR

    When the Labor administration came to power in 1997 general election after a period of 18 years, Under Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Labor government, published a White Paper entitled: “Bringing Rights Home”, introducing again the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) which made most of the rights enshrined in the (European) Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) effective.1.  The United Kingdoms has made number of modifications on the treaty that made it mandatory to respect and implement the rights for its citizens and others including the right to freedom of expression and provide strict parameters according to which one can express the Freedom of Expression.

    FOOTNOTES:

    1. Amnesty International, 23rd February 2006, United Kingdom – Human Rights: a broken promise,

    The precise conditions under which these rights are restricted maintain democratic principles, helps in maintaining national security, territorial integrity and or public, to prevent disorder and crime, protect the health or morals, reputation or rights of others, prevent the disclosure of confidential information and or maintain the authority and impartiality of the judiciary. These all relate to three concepts on which the interference with freedom of expression can be treated such as pursuing a legitimate aim and attaining some meaning in a democratic society”.

    These restrictions on Freedom of Speech will be only based on law, and meets some standards of clarity and accessibility. The US Supreme Court has established the  “void for vagueness” doctrine established which could also be found in constitutional doctrine in other countries. It means that any loosely worded or vague laws cannot be implied to restrict the Freedom of Expression because they may not be clear to layman and may inhibit the true Nature and Concept of law.  Under this Act United Kingdom imposed number of limitations on freedom of speech. The UK law on defamation is also among the strictest in the Western world, placing a high burden of proof on the defendant.

    As the Honorable Prime Minister Tony Blair stated, “Let no-one be in any doubt, the rules of the game are changing” at the aftermath of July 7 Bomb blast1.  It outlined the wide-range of the set of proposals to address terrorist threats in the UK and moreover they developed a new policy for the exclusion or deportation of persons from the UK on “non-conducive” grounds. But the Article 19 severely criticized the law on the ground that it violates the Freedom of expression.  It stated that Clause 1 had been drafted very broadly and vaguely.

    FOOTNOTE

    1. Human Rights are not the Game, AI Index: EUR 45/043/2005, Amnesty International Publications.

    It stated, “that the proposed new criminal offence does not require any intent to incite violence or even ‘glorify’ terrorism, and that it proposes to criminalize statements that do not constitute direct incitement to violence”.

    Due to it, this Clause would lead to have a serious consequence for freedom of expression.

      FOOTNOTE:

    1. Article 19, Global Campaign For Free Expression, Clause 1 of the draft Terrorism Bill of the United Kingdom.

    The Terrorism Act 2000 was considered to be the amongst the toughest and most comprehensive anti-terror legislation and According to the Europe Amnesty International some of its provisions are the breach of the UK obligations under international human rights law and standards, with open to abuse by law enforcement officials. This act became standard to all the other Acts. The erosion of human rights in the UK under counter-terrorism legislation is not new but it had been a matter of grave concern for in Emergency legislation for Amnesty International since decades.

    It happened during the conflict of Northern Ireland too, when the UK authorities introduced emergency measures in the context of the conflict in Northern Ireland, human rights have been sacrificed in the name of and sacrificed human rights in the name of security. They resorted to all sorts of torture or other ill-treatment and unfair trials. Since 1997, the current Labor government enacted the four pieces of legislation with the sole aim of countering terrorism, namely the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998, the Terrorism Act 2000, the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.

    And in October 2005, the UK government introduced the fifth such piece of legislation, the Terrorism Bill. According to the Amnesty International each of the above-mentioned pieces of legislation, as well as the Terrorism Bill in its current form, have provisions that are incompatible with human rights law and standards and have given rise to serious human rights violations. At the time of attacks on 11 September 2001, the Terrorism Act 2000 was in force which was the toughest and most comprehensive anti-terror legislation in Europe.”

    It was  21 September 2001, when Lotfi Raissi, a man from Algeria aged 27, was arrested in Slough, was reportedly at gun-point at 3 am, and forced to get into a police car, allegedly while still naked, along with his wife and brother. There are several other such cases that covered the pages of media and reflected the sheer violation of human rights.

    THE REPUBLIC OF YEMEN AND ICCPR

    The republic of Yemen acceded to the ICCPR and ICESCR in 1987 with a general declaration pertaining to non-recognition of the state of Israel. And by submitting to the clause in the Article 19, the Republic of Yemen pledged itself to the Freedom of Expression to its subjects. And particularly for Yemen is the Arab Charter of Human Rights, which adopted by the Council of Ministers of the

    Arab League in March 2004; And in it is also included Article 32 which provided guarantee of free speech. There are also three regional human rights treaties; European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression guaranteed in Article 10), the American Convention on Human Rights (Article 13) and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Article 19. Though Yemen is not bound by the decisions of these courts, they exert an absolute authority on freedom of expression principles. Besides, Yemen Constitution provides guarantee of the right to freedom of expression in Article 41 whereby citizens has the right to participate in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the country and the state shall guarantee freedom of thought and expression of opinion in speech, writing and photography within the limits of the law and The UN Human Rights Committee has specially stressed on the importance of a free media in the political process.

    But after the international pressures following the 11 September attacks 2001 in the USA, the Yemen government sacrificed human rights violated the ICCPR, the illegal detentions and deportations became the hall mark of the security forces. Many foreign nationals were deported, while Yemeni detainees were put behind the bars indefinitely without any charge and judicial supervision. In June AI submitted a briefing to the UN Human Rights Committee for scrutiny of Yemen’s and In July the Committee issued the recommendations for the Yemen to review the question of the death penalty, to take adequate steps to put an end to the punishments of amputation and flogging; deeply investigate the allegations of human rights abuses; and assure that they will imbibe by the convention of ICCPR in their measures against terrorism. It was also ensured that the judiciary to be free of any interference; and respect freedom of the press.

    In response to the President Ali Abdullah Saleh to remove clauses allowing the Imprisonment of Journalists government considered to make amendments to the 1990 Law on Press and Publications. This was done as a measure to ensure the constructive contribution to the draft by suggesting the ways whereby the Law on Press and Publications can be brought into line with international law and standards on freedom of expression. 1.

    FOOTNOTE

    1. Global Campaign for Free Expression, Article 19, 2005, Memorandum On The Draft Law on Press and Publications of the Republic of Yemen.

    Observations and Conclusions

    As the cases suggests that it become apparent that the Act the Labor Government signed up and so does Yemen is a shear mockery to the ICCPR. The new Bill of Rights should be passed which can allow the opportunity to clearly define what are the rights and responsibilities of citizens. 1. “Human rights law makes ample provision for strong counter-terrorist action, even in the most exceptional circumstances.

    “But compromising human rights cannot serve the struggle against terrorism. On the contrary, it facilitates achievement of the terrorist’s objective — by ceding to him the moral high ground, and provoking tension, hatred and mistrust of government among precisely those parts of the population where he is most likely to find recruits. Upholding human rights is not merely compatible with a successful counter-terrorism strategy. It is an essential element in it”. (Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, 3, February 10, 2006. 2

    BIBILOGRAPHY

    1. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),
    2. Mette Newth, 2001, The long history of censorship, Beacon For Freedom of Expression, extracted from  http://www.beaconforfreedom.org/about_project/history.html, on 26th November.
    3. Article 19, 2006, Growing international concern over press freedom in Yemen,
    4. Warner Steven, Freedom of Expression and National Security in the United Kingdom,
      Article 19 and Liberty, November 2000, Printed by The Guardian.

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