The next time someone tells you to shut up...

What does 'freedom of expression' really mean? Does it mean, as held by the European Court of Human Rights, that while a person is guaranteed the freedom to say whatever they like, without discrimination, they are not entitled to a platform to disseminate these views?

 In a world where we are constantly confronted with ever-polarized viewpoints and caustic speech, how far does the freedom of expression really go? Too far? Not far enough? When there is such a crime as 'incitement to racial hatred,' have we gone too far in our regulation of what people can and cannot say? What they can and cannot think?

 On the other side, the appearance of Nick Griffin on Question Time recently gave many people pause, and gave many over to outrage that such a man with such poisonous views should be allowed on public television. If we don't have the right to stop him from saying or believing these things, does that mean he has the right to go on national television and project his views?

There are many days that I read things in the New York Times (often by, about, or referring to Sarah Palin) and shudder with anger and frustration. I feel hurt that these things are put out into the universe because of the way they portray my country, the way they make me feel. And while there are times I wish they weren't allowed to say those things, I believe that curtailing freedom of expression is that proverbial 'slippery slope.'

If I was allowed to keep them from saying that they ardently believe (though even typing that, that someone might actually believe those things makes my blood boil), I know that they probably feel the same way about me. 

The human right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights as well as the  Cliché? Perhaps. But still worth keeping in mind.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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