freedom of expression

The right to express opinions is not a virus (Part 1)

Asanka Abeyratne

One of the decisive factors setting man apart from other animals is language. Animals also exchange emotions by way of instinct. But human beings are more advanced in terms communication. Humans have the ability to communicate not only in the same language but also in different languages and their corresponding communication platforms.

As such, it can be argued that the freedom to hold opinions through communication is a human right. But is it possible to share ideas or hold opinions by merely knowing a language and having access to communication facilities? When debating this thought, a traditional saying comes to mind. That is, “Even if a fence is built around the country, it cannot be built around the mouth.” The saying passed down from generation to generation, also refers to the innate right to freedom of expression. The most important aspect here is freedom. It emphasizes the need for the right to express one’s views without the influence of another person or group of people.

One has the right to express and hold opinions under any circumstances and there is no standard to say it must be the correct idea or ideology. Diverse views and opposing ideologies also belong within a pantheistic space. As Noam Chomsky said, “If we do not believe in freedom of expression, condemn freedom of expression“. 


Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”. This includes “the right to express one’s opinion without hindrance and to receive information from any medium, regardless of borders.” Freedom of expression is a fundamental and inescapable right of all. It is also an essential attribute for the well-being of a democratic society. At present, Article 13 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966 * 19.1), enshrined in its 175 Parties, states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression” as per Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Everyone has the right, the right to freedom of opinion and expression; It cannot be limited by economic status, birth, or any other social status.

Article 14 of Chapter 3 of the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka includes the term “freedom of speech“. But Article 15 emphasizes that those which are considered absolute rights can be restricted. Sri Lanka is bound to recognize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a Member State of the United Nations, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was signed on 11 May 1980. It has been in force in Sri Lanka since 2007 and was intended to uphold certain human rights not enshrined in the Constitution. That is, “discriminatory, racial, ethnic, or religious rivalries, or acts that incite violence” are considered illegal. Violation by an individual is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Unfortunately, the government is abusing this agreement in Sri Lanka.

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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