Words matter! Free Speech Week is October 16-22

Freedom of Speech WeekFree Speech Week is a yearly event designed to raise public awareness of the importance of free speech in our democracy and to celebrate that freedom. This is also an opportunity to introduce students of all ages to this basic human right, as well as explain its limitations and misuses.

What is the definition of freedom of expression?

The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The article states, “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

When freedom of expression is abused

Freedom of speech and expression are not absolute rights, however. And, common limitations to freedom of speech relate to libel, slander, classified information, copyright violation, and perjury. Justifications for such include the harm principle itself.

“Vigils, rallies and marching are important ways for people to demonstrate their resolve and message. Violence and chaos serves no one. That’s not legitimate protest. It is anarchy,” explains columnist Kelvin Wade.

And, with the evolution of the digital age, application of the freedom of speech becomes more controversial as new means of communication and restrictions arise.

Celebrating freedom in speech in a positive way

A wide range of schools will mark the week by conducting events celebrating free speech and the First Amendment. Plus, colleges and universities across the country are participating as “Educational Partners,” giving professors an opportunity to conduct classroom discussions, host guest lecturers, and plan other events devoted to free-speech topics.

Free Speech Week is designed to be an inclusive celebration for all Americans regardless of politics or ideology. The goal is to celebrate First Amendment rights, and it is not intended to advocate any political viewpoint or ideological agenda.

For more information, visit www.freespeechweek.org.

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