"Freedom of Expression in the Age of Social Media"

"We often articulate that technology has made the world smaller, but the social media has made the globe even smaller. These days, we mostly use the platform of social media to express our thoughts. It has become a podium for “understanding for both the powers and weaknesses that Internet can provide", said Senior Advocate R. N. Mathur. Senior Advocate Mathur was invited by the Seedling School of Law and Governance, Jaipur National University as part of the Guest Lecture to deliver a lecture on “Freedom of Expression in the Age of Social Media” on 22nd September, 2018.

While addressing the faculties and students, Senior Advocate Mathur said, “The freedom of speech is regarded as the first condition of liberty. It occupies a preferred and important position in the hierarchy of the liberty, it is truly said about the freedom of speech that it is the mother of all other liberties. Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one’s own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode.”

With an interactive audience and listeners who even stood at the back, surpassing seating capacity, Senior Advocate Mathur said, “In democratic structure, social media is regarded as a tool for encouraging “social participatory governance”. He further said, “Social media user is challenging administrative norms and structure dictating public sector declaration around the world: from government to government and government to public.” Questions were raised by students regarding the comments in social media and restrictions on internet during the time of exam (police exam), to which Senior Advocate Mathur answered. He stressed that the Internet and Social Media are not what causes revolutions, but merely helpful tools.

While talking about the bloggers, the speaker pointed out, “The bloggers have freedom of speech and can express what they want, but they take a big risk doing so, the line between what is ok and what crosses the line being very diffuse.” He pointed out that in India, the right of freedom of speech and expression is granted by Article 19(1)(a). However, this right of freedom to speech and expression is not completely unchecked. Article 19 (2) allows for reasonable restrictions to be imposed on all fundamental rights, including that of freedom to speech and expression. He cited the case of Romesh Thappar v Union of India, where Justice Patanjali has rightfully held that 19(1)(g) is the very basis and essence of the constitution and our democracy. Reasonable restrictions, however, he noted, should be such that others’ rights should not be hindered or affected

During the discussion, issues were raised on the reference of social media in the international instruments. Senior Advocate Mathur pointed out that the international and regional conventions has given strong indication of right to freedom of speech and expression “through any other media of his choice” in Article 19 of UDHR, “regardless of frontiers” in Article 19 (2) of ICCPR, “without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers” in Article 10 of ECHR establishes freedom of speech and expression through social media.

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