freedom of expression

The Effective Use of Freedom of Expression

Naveen Silva

In its simplest form, one’s right to express opinions freely is known as freedom of expression. As stated in Article 14 of our constitution, it involves, but is not limited to, freedom of speech and expression, including publication, freedom of peaceful assembly and so on.

Are we using it properly?

There remains a question as to how effectively we use our freedom to express our own opinions. That is clearly visible during the early days of the lockdown in March 2020. Social media was w full of fake news and rumours regarding the virus that caused much public panic. Police were busy finding people who spread false information about the virus, instead of being able to help curb the pandemic A similar incident occurred two years ago when a university student posted on social media claiming the president’s airplane had met with an accident. His posts garnered many reactions on social media but the student ended up in jail for a few weeks. The Easter Sunday bombings were another hot topic that played a big role in furthering fake news and false information. As everyone was aware, in the weeks following the attacks, there were so many WhatsApp messages and recordings being shared about a possible series of attacks. Without confirming if these social forwards and shares were true, people started panicking. 

Few of these cases can be attributed to misunderstanding. However, many try to get online attention by spreading rumours and thereby creating a fan base. While this can benefit that particular person, those who see their posts will read them in a different light. Some also spread rumours for political gain. 

Whatever the form it manifests in, as a society we must be aware of the way we convey messages and news. As the audience, we should be able to filter out what is right and wrong and at the same time not give unnecessary promotion to unverified news. At a point of crisis like the present, it is important that we discipline ourselves and avoid causing social chaos.

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The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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