Tuesday, 7 August 2007

What are the limits on Free Speech?

"We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

How far is the 'unalienable right' of 'liberty' to be protected when the liberty claimed is freedom to speak or otherwise express oneself? The first amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petitionthe Government for a redress of grievances."

But there are many dilemmas to be faced - particularly when one person's speech threatens either the rights or interests of another individual, or the security and interests of society generally.

In Britain yesterday two important judgments were delivered in the Royal Courts of Justice. The editorial in the Independent says -

"Yesterday was a rare good day for free speech in Britain. The High Court granted the Heathrow operator, BAA, an injunction against three of the protest groups that are organising this summer's climate change camp outside the airport, but this falls far short of the type of restrictions the company originally wanted to impose on activists. Meanwhile, in another chamber of the same court, it was ruled that the police restrictions that have been placed on Westminster's most famous anti-war protestor, Brian Haw, are unlawful. "

Your comments are appreciated.