Current times are very progressive when it comes to freedom of expression. Looking back it’s easy to see how far society has come.
A Historic Example
For example, let’s go back to the summer of 1808 in Spain, when Napoleon Bonaparte attacked the country in his attempt to conquer it. The French merchants residing in Cadiz were imprisoned though they were practically Spanish citizens who had lived most of their lives in Spain. It did not matter that they had taken an oath of fidelity to King Ferdinand XII; they were considered foreigners, and therefore, possible enemies.
Without the privilege of freedom of expression, their voices were silenced and their claims buried. In those days there wasn’t the same level of media that currently exists, only a handful of newspapers such as “El Diario Mercantil de Cadiz”, which was not even available to everyone.
In contrast, current times present hundreds of possibilities for open expression. One of the most popular ways people take advantage of this now is through social media, however, other media such as radio and TV are available to everyone.
Freedom of Expression and Media
The rise of social media has had grand implications for freedom of expression. For example, expressing ideas in real-time has become an everyday thing. Most people don’t even realize the power or opportunity that they have to freely express their opinions. The internet has allowed the expansion of communication channels between people in a huge way. The exchange of content and information has become an easy, normal thing, even across the world.
An excellent example of this is Twitter, where both common people and activists with special stories, like Mohamed Soltan, can reach thousands of people who can identify with them or who want to join them in some cause. There is no doubt that social networks are key to the level of freedom of expression that people enjoy today.
There are many other social media and media outlets and opportunities to exercise freedom of speech and expression, however, people must be careful to use this right wisely.
The Limits of Freedom
At the same time, the quote “my freedom ends where everyone else begins” is still applicable. There are limits to what a person can say, even with freedom of speech and expression. With great freedom of expression come unfortunate circumstances that include more and more frequent cases regarding harmful publications or comments on social networks. While people have a right to freedom of expression, everyone also has the right to feel safe and to be treated with respect.
Do people have the right to publish and express everything they think through social media? Of course, people have the right to free expression when it doesn’t infringe upon the rights of others to feel safe, respected, and not discriminated against.
The privilege of the level of freedom of expression that is enjoyed today brings with it the responsibility of finding the balance between freely expressing thoughts and violating others’ rights with words.