Freedom of speech is a term that was intended to depict and to establish a sought after stance where little to naught was able to be said against the tyranny of oppression. It was never phrased to mean anything said is the 'right' to be said.
When the Bill of Rights was passed in the late 17th century in England, it was intended to secure freedom of speech. 'Freedom of Speech' as it was termed back then, set out the rights of Parliament to speak freely, rather than being at the threat of an over powerful monarch at the time. It was intended to provide the right to petition the monarch without fear of retribution.
But in spite of the intention, what have we really secured with 'Freedom of Speech'?
In October 2012, the front page of one of London's newspapers featured an article about a serial offender jailed for eight months for wearing an anti-police T-shirt. He did this on the same day two policewomen had been killed. These two women went out on duty in response to a phone call reporting an alleged burglary. As they walked into the house of the caller, they were simply met with bullets. The country was in shock, yet this one particular individual wore a T-shirt saying: 'One less pig; perfect justice' and ' Killacopforfun.com ha ha'.
A human rights activist made a comment that followed on the verdict "Causing offence is not a legitimate reason to jail anyone. The price of free speech is that we sometimes have to put up with views we find offensive".
But was this harmlessly offensive or was it not only offensive but abusive, and actually promoting that harming another is ok - in this particular case the murder of two policewomen. Is this what freedom of speech truly is? Do we not have the right to draw the line when so called Freedom of Speech becomes a license to incite violence and abuse others?
I know all too well what it is like to live in a place without freedom of speech and genuine truancy of what many in the western world would consider a natural right.
I grew up in former Yugoslavia during Tito's reign. I remember my parents often cautioning my siblings and I not to make any jokes or say anything 'inapt' in public related to Tito or the government; it was put to us, that it could get them into serious trouble. It was not unusual to hear (very quietly though) of a person being whisked away in the middle of the night to a remote island off the Croatian coast, spending the rest of their lives with a large, heavy metal ball around their ankle as a result of speaking up against corruption and bribery. This may sound like a far fetched film scenario for anyone sitting comfortably and well cushioned in their 'western sofas', but for many around the world this has been and continues to be an onerous reality - the most recent heinous event in Russia during a Gay and Lesbian parade is just small proof of this abhorrent existence.
Freedom of Speech was born out of a genuine need to protect those who wanted to speak of true despotism, bigotry and partisanship.
The press baron's aversion in the UK to Leveson's recommendations is waved around under the same three-word banner: Freedom of Speech!
Let us not be fooled - the newspaper bosses, under one umbrella, PressBoF, are vehemently condemning the Leveson Report and pulling forces left right and centre to have their draft Royal Charter on press self-regulation, considered by the Privy Council ahead of the version that every single party in the British parliament has already agreed to.
Is there truly a threat to Freedom of Speech in the UK? Or is it that there is a threat to Freedom to Breach as some of the press have become so accustomed to (News Corporation hacking scandals for instance)
Surely, the Press as well as big Internet giants like Google, Facebook, Yahoo et al do know that 'freedom of speech' is a phrase that is intended for the right to speak against injustice and not for the purpose of expression per se.
Is it possible that the Press also do know that slander, abuse, malice, bullying and vile expression arouse activity which equals greater newspapers and magazines sales and more TRAFFIC on their sites which equals figure$ and more advertisement $pace. Is it possible this has largely been founded on greed and personal gain, rather than in consideration of, and true love and respect for each and every fellow human being? Is it therefore not also possible that the true intent behind the original Freedom of Speech has been bastardised and manipulated to serve a minority or selected few, rather than to serve all equally?
The journalism and expression of integrity is a precious and profound commodity in any society. It is an exemplary part of democracy and as such it is our duty to make sure that it is nurtured and ultimately upheld.
ALL should be free to speak, but Freedom of Speech MUST NEVER be Freedom to Harm.