We are told that Freedom of Speech is an unalienable right, it is enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights. We hear lots of politicians and other types bemoaning the lack of it in, say, Myanmar, China, Russia and so on, not to mention the near beatification of Messrs Assange and Snowden, and in UKIP we took whistle-blower Marta Andreassen into the fold in the name of it. But what does it mean? If a freedom has defined limits, can it ever be truly a freedom. What if we are told that the freedom has undefined limits and the breach of which will end up in a custodial sentence, does that freedom then become a restriction?
Here is how Freedom of Speech is defined by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected. I am signing up for that. I can say that ‘I hate margarine’ without fear of arrest, no matter how strong the margarine lobby is, they can never arrest me for preaching margarine-hatred. I may be making an ass of myself, for margarine is a wonderful thing and is an integral part the multi-spread world. My irrational hatred of margarine is protected by this right.
Legal Explanation no. 2 states: The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.” In other words, the State and its institutions have the right, without recourse to the electorate, as they are able to interpret ‘democratic’, ‘interests’, ‘territorial integrity’, ‘public safety’, ‘morals’, ‘reputation and rights’, and the ‘authority and impartiality of the judiciary’. With these powers to determine what is in the interests and safety of the country and its people speech can never be free. The quixotic and unaccountable nature of the State means that we can never enjoy anything remotely close to a “FREEDOM” of speech, so best I keep my margarinist thoughts to myself.