Freedom of Speech Must be Assured, Protected
GEORGE ORWELL, THE famous English man of letters who became renowned for his allegory “Animal Farm” once made a profound statement about free speech. “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
THIS RIGHT TO tell people what they don’t want to hear is also embedded and protected in our Constitution. According to Article 15 of our 1986 Constitution, every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof. This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government save during an emergency declared in accordance with this Constitution.
ALSO, IN AGREEMENT of telling people what they don’t want to hear, Article 15B of our Constitution observes that the right to free speech encompasses the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to knowledge. It includes freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom to receive and impart knowledge and information and the right to remain silent.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, ARTICLE 15C is very clear about protecting the right of people to tell others what they don’t want to hear; when it says clearly that in pursuance of this right, there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries.
ONE MAY ASK: why is The Analyst bringing up with this long hauling and pulling about the Liberian Constitution and Free Speech. Well, we all by now are aware what happened last week when government security forces moved on the premises of Roots FM to enforce closure of the radio station belonging to government’s strongest critic, Henry Costa.
IN THE HEAT OF the moment it was alleged that equipment of the radio station were vandalized – reminiscent of Liberia’s past dark days.
WITHOUT A DOUBT, the move by government is now seen by many as an attempt to silence Roots FM from exposing many societal ills, most especially, reporting on those corruption and bad governance issues which made the station the most widely monitored space within the Liberian media landscape.
THE HEAVY-HANDED, gangland-style closure of Roots FM also came at a crucial time when a Congressional delegation from the United States government was visiting their Liberian counterparts. Most pointedly, the closure preceded a damning US report on Liberia where the stifling of free speech was outlined.
IN THE WAKE of government’s closure of Roots FM and the vandalizing of its facilities, the opposition bloc has come out sharply condemning government’s action, warning that they would never again countenance such “barbaric” behavior.
FROM OUR END, we wish to send this caveat to all: but especially to the government. The freedom we all enjoy today: to speak as we wish, with forbearance of the abuse thereof, must be jealously guarded and protected by all.
FOR IN THE wake of the denial of such liberties, the people often seek alternative means to make their voices heard. Liberia has been through a rough patch. We’ve been down this rocky, rugged road before. We should never, ever rock the boat.