The freedom of opinion is a fundamental human right to hold beliefs and views without any interference or coercion from others. This fundamental right is subject to certain limitations to protect the well-being of others in the nation.
The term “freedom of opinion and information” falls under the greater purview of the “freedom of expression.” These are, therefore, often used in a similar sense. There is only a slight difference in their scope. However, both of these refer to the same set of fundamental rights.
Black Law Dictionary defines freedom of expression as,
“The right to say what one wants through any form of communication and media with the only limitation being to cause another harm in character or reputation by lying or misleading words.”
What Does Freedom Of Opinion And Information Mean?
In simple words, freedom of opinion and information refers to the right of an individual to hold their own beliefs and thoughts and to access necessary information. The information part means- one’s right to seek, receive and give information through various forms of communication.
How Does The Freedom Of Opinion And Information Apply To You?
Overall the concept of fundamental rights might be the same as a legal manifestation only. However, fundamental rights are an important part of your everyday life. These are the components of freedom of opinion and information that make up a part of your daily life.
a. Freedom of thought
Individuality begins with individual thought processes. Individuals can hold their own thoughts and beliefs according to this fundamental right.
b. Freedom of expression
This fundamental right lets one openly express their ideas and opinions.
c. Freedom of the press
This is a very important part of the freedom of opinion and information. Various media outlets have the right to investigate and give information to the public. Freedom of the press is a very important component of any democracy.
d. Right to access information
This fundamental right lets an individual seek, receive and access public, private, and governmental information.
However, there is a catch. An individual is not permitted to access classified information on the basis of this fundamental right. I know that’s a bummer!
e. Public right to know
This fundamental right guarantees all citizens the right to be informed about all matters of public interest, public policies, and decisions.
This, again, does not give an individual the right to access classified information.
f. Right to share and access information online
This is the Digital age. Therefore, it is only fair and practical to extend this fundamental right to the digital realm. According to this fundamental right, one is free to share information and opinion online.
g. Protection to the whistleblower
This fundamental right protects any individual who has disclosed sensitive matters of public interest. It encourages transparency and accountability in the system.
These are the manifestations of freedom of opinion and information. By now, you can understand that this fundamental right is a crucial part of the democratic process.
Freedom Of Opinion And Information Under The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights
19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects an individual right to freedom of opinion and information. It recognizes the right of an individual to freely express their opinion, hold any opinion that they deem fit, and also believe in their ideas freely.
- This fundamental right also guarantees an individual right to seek, receive and give information.
- “Through any media and regardless of frontiers,” this phrase of article 19 means that there is a Universal application of this right. Physical and Geographic boundaries of Nations and media do not stop an individual from accessing the information legitimately. The term media refers to printing services, broadcasting channels, and all other digital platforms. This fundamental right promotes the global nature of the exchange of information.
- This article is very democratic in nature. It protects the citizens right to participate in all public affairs and the overall decision-making process of the government.
- The freedom of opinion also gives an individual the voice their concerns and criticize their government according to the policies and laws.
- Article 19 also promotes transparency in the system. Right to Information gives an individual a chance to go through the actions of government officials and check arbitrary practices.
Article 19 furthers human development in society. It encourages the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and other sources of art and expression. This enables the development of a rich culture.
Freedom Of Opinion And Information: US Constitution
“Congress shall make no law…………….prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the individual right to opinion and information through these means.
It guarantees one freedom of speech.
According to this right, there will be no government or public interference with one freedom of speech.
It guarantees freedom of the press to the citizens of the United States.
The United States press has the right to investigate and report matters to the public through their media outlets and other digital platforms.
Freedom of religion is also a manifestation of the freedom of opinion.
An individual is free to practice and preach their religion of choice according to this fundamental right.
The citizens of the United States also enjoy the freedom to assemble peacefully.
Individuals can peacefully assemble and discuss them openly and voice them. They are also free to address any grievances that they hold against the government of the United States.
Freedom Of Opinion And Information: Case Laws
These are some of the most famous judgments by the United States Supreme Court that reiterate one’s freedom of opinion and information.
The case of the Pentagon Papers
(Originally the New York Times Company v. United States, 1971)
In this case, the supreme court granted the press the right to publish classified information relating to the American Vietnam War. The court also emphasized that the government has to justify why it had properly restrained publication earlier properly.
Morse v. Frederick
This is a fairly recent case. The Supreme Court ruled that a public school principal could stop a student from advocating the use of illegal drugs. Schools and other educational institutions have the right to limit student expression to promote discipline on the premises.
Wrapping It Up!
You would be mistaken to think that fundamental rights protect all your opinions and thoughts. Your rights of freedom of opinion and information are subject to some limitations.
- There are legal limitations against hate speech, libel, defamation, or incitement to violence. Your fundamental rights are also subject to privacy matters such as nondisclosure agreements.
- Social media platforms have certain guidelines that all individuals on them should abide by. You cannot use your fundamental rights as a shield against these guidelines.
- This fundamental right also does not allow you to promote or participate in cyberbullying. Any sort of harassment or hostile activity online could warrant punishment from the law.
- Your places of employment and professional guidelines may also require you to keep the information confidential. You could end up losing your job over a breach of these explicitly mentioned guidelines.
Hope you find this article inclusive and informational!