Freedom of Speech: Privilege or Fundamental Right

Freedom of speech is the freedom to express one’s opinion without fear of consequence or retribution. It is considered as a basic human right that every citizen should be accorded. As such, many countries around the world list freedom of speech as a basic right of their citizens. They proudly proclaim that every citizen has the right to express their opinions and voice their concerns.

The citizens of most countries, may have the right to speak, but what about the consequences of said speech?

There has been a recent wave of activism around the world in countries like the USA, Hong Kong, India, France, Middle East, Philippines, South American countries etc. We get to see which countries truly offer freedom of speech without retaliation to its citizens.

While one country bans journalists, another imprisons dissidents. Some countries even resort to a military crackdown on protesters or order silent kidnappings and assassinations of these speakers. All this happens while they proudly declare that they offer freedom of speech.

The reason that I am speaking, on this issue, is that I want to make people revaluate all the fundamental rights that they are offered. Many countries say that it’s citizens have the right to free speech. Yet, all speakers are effectively hushed at the end of the day. Anyone who raises questions is extracted and jailed or simply killed.

Does this happen in your country? Do you see activists raising difficult questions and living to tell the tale? For this exercise, don’t consider the conspiracies that keep floating around in social media. Make a quick check of all the social activists and if they are free or jailed or worse. If they are still continuing their work, then it is a good sign for civil liberties.

A tweet or a facebook post stating that our government is becoming fascist does not make it the truth. The fact that these people are allowed to speak badly about their government daily is proof that democracy prevails.

Just enabling free speech does not exempt the government of all wrongdoings. However, it gives the citizens a chance to question their leaders, ask pertinent questions regarding policies. They can speak up and discuss all the obstacles in the path. Citizens can now negotiate an amicable end to any disagreement. Every democracy can function only when there is equal participation from all sides. To participate in a democracy, Freedom of Speech is the cornerstone value.

The Election Results Are Out…..Now What??

India had its first General Elections in the year 1951, since then India has conducted elections every five years to elect the Prime Minister. This year, the Lok Sabha elections were held for the 17th time. Lok Sabha is the lower house and with this election, the members of the Parliament are appointed. Every state also conducts its own elections, called the Assembly elections.

The state of Andhra Pradesh was formed, recently in 2014, and they held their second general elections this year.

election winner

For the past several months, there was a frenzy of activity for elections and the media covered it all. Any channel you tune into, one could hear all kinds of analysis, opinion polls, predictions, pointing fingers and breaking news upon breaking news. News anchors appeared out of the blue on busy streets and bazaars for interviews. They would stick their mic into the face of unsuspecting strangers asking, “Who do you think will win this election and why?” The politicians went channel hopping giving interviews, sitting for discussions with their pet channels. They would rain spit over the microphone during heated arguments with political opponents.

The electorate of India lapped up all this and more from the social media which has now become the informal fifth leg of the government. The Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary are the three pillars of government and Media is the fourth pillar.

But, now social media has become the new fifth pillar. Social media was super active with comical gifs, images, trolls and what not. After all the din, the elections were conducted in a free and fair manner and the results were declared.

election winner 3

The outcome of these elections is that Narendra Modi has won the Parliamentary election and Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy has won the Assembly elections in the state of Andhra Pradesh. My hearty congratulations and best wishes to all the winners. The supporters of the winning parties all over the country are in celebratory mode and the losers are no doubt feeling low.

Like they say: “Success is never final and failure never fatal”, there is no need to feel depressed. People will never fail to notice sincere hard work, loyalty, talent and skill to lead the country in the right direction. This loss is a time to reevaluate the work they have done for the country and victory is a time to make good use of the trust that people have placed on them. In short, the mantra is: Work in the best interest of the country and its people.

Most people might feel, now that the elections are done they can get back to their routine. I beg to differ. Actually, the story begins here. Given the existing challenges, we need to see how they deal with these problems and what kind of decisions they make. Today the world political scenario is volatile; this adds greater responsibility on the Prime Minister. Andhra Pradesh needs to build a proper capital city and develop its infrastructure while they are cash strapped. It has to be seen how Y.S. Jagan will deal with these challenges.

After the elections, we need to work with the government by encouraging the ministers for the good things they do and let them know when they make decisions that are not in the best interest of the people and the country. After the elections, it is time for us to forget all about which political party we backed and actively work towards the development of the country and its people. Where there is a will there is a way, so look around and see what little one can do to contribute towards the greater good and do it.

Sometimes we take the power in our hands for granted. There are countries in the world that either don’t have a democratic form of government or it is some other form of government cloaked in a democracy like the proverbial wolf in sheepskin.  People in democratic countries need to understand that power lies in the hands of the people and they must value this power. Work with your leaders to make democracy a success. Today, irrespective of which political party scored the max votes, it is Indian democracy that has triumphed.

Who gets my vote

Voting and elections are the hot topic in the country today. With the general elections just around the corner, every political party is campaigning, canvassing and, in some cases, begging for your votes. It is not just political parties that depend on our votes, reality show participants, news anchors, beauty pageants etc also depend on public voting. When votes are such an important part of our democracy, what is the psyche behind each vote.

I am not talking about the contestants of any show, political party, pageant, reality contest or the virtues of any candidate. I, simply aim to understand what triggers a voter to choose a particular participant. I have spoken to my friends, colleagues, co passengers, and gathered general opinion from neighbours and relatives. Mind you, I am not conducting a scientific survey or study, all this is just to satisfy my curiosity. Now that I have made my intentions clear, I will make my findings clear too. I have found some very weird and funny reasons, some smart and practical reasons and some absolutely ridiculous reasons too.

  • Some people have given usual answers like ‘that participant is from my community/ caste/ neighborhood/ ethnicity’, this reason is most unreasonable because it has no bearing on the contest at all.
  • There were also reasons like ‘his/her relative was a good person’, this again is a bad reason because you can’t call someone a good reason or actor or person just because they are related to good people.
  • Some people have given practical answers like, ‘this person is a lesser evil compared to others’. I understand that in some contests you don’t have any suitable or good participant, we just have to pick the best option.
  • Here is a foolish reason for supporting or voting for your candidate. ‘i like to support the underdog’. This is such a bad reason because, you are the underdog most of the time due to your lack of skill, preparation and qualification. How can that be a reason to make you win.
  • Some people also vote purely based on appearances or looks. ‘he looks so innocent/ kind/ cute’ etc.
  • Sometimes the participants create tragic backstory  to gather sympathy votes. I have seen hardcore enthusiasts and fans and followers fall for such plots. The participants mainly have the skill needed, but have a sad story and you can get through. Revenge is also another reason for people to vote for unqualified candidates. We try to play god and avenge the wrongs done by a candidate by voting for other unqualified candidates

In this way, people have given a wide range of good, bad and ugly reasons to bestow ones vote. The sad thing is that we can’t preach to the public about the importance of vote and their duty. When we are starved for good choices, we have to make do with bad ones.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these images. They are sourced from Google and Pinterest.