Freedom of Speech is a human right

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Heather Schofield

Expression is the way in which people communicate ideas, feelings and wants to other people. Here in the United States, citizens enjoy the freedom of expression. This right prevents the government from restricting or interfering with the press, allowing individuals to speak freely. Even the Supreme Court requires the government to provide enough justification for the regulation of freedom of speech.

This extends to every country through the Declaration of Human Rights preserved by the United Nations. However, there are several countries and groups that do not officially recognize this right.

These groups try to censor information and the spread of ideas, leading to resistance, violence and death. This was such the case on January 7 when Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly magazine, attracted attention for featuring controversial depictions of the prophet Muhammad. 12 people were killed and 10 others were injured during the attack by the Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.

The phrase “Je Suis Charlie,” which is French for “I am Charlie,” is a common motto in support of the rallies these past few weeks. The supporters of those who were killed at the Charlie Hebdo shooting are by extension supporters of freedom of speech and resistance to armed threats.

They are symbolically subsuming themselves into the victim’s identities to show their support of freedom of expression. By joining together, the supporters are able to show the terrorists that threats and violence will not silence them. The efforts to prevent freedom of speech backfired and actually increased awareness of the right through social media sites.

Although some citizens disagreed with the rapid support of “Je Suis Charlie” because of perceived racism, freedom of speech allows one to express their thoughts whether or not other people agree with them. There are laws in many countries including the United States and France against slander, racism, hatred and discrimination.

When expressing oneself, one must also be respectful. Pope Francis declared that there are limits and religions must be respected. That does not give another person the right to kill others for perceived discrimination. The fundamental idea of the truths that we hold to be self-evident were spread rapidly after the atrocious attacks that occurred in France. Our voices will be heard.

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