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Right Of Expression: A Lucrative Political Tool To Influence Democracy In The Contemporary World

Freedom to speech and expression, the golden right of the non-colonial era and is a basic conclusive evidence of having a sense of value in a nation. Almost all countries across the globe provide freedom to speech and expression at least on paper, and it's a serious issue to encroach this right internationally. Democratic giants like India, USA, Canada and Australia believe this right to be Strongest pillar of Democracy, their political and lawmaking bodies reflect their seriousness in securing this basic Human right.

Indian constitution confers right to speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) and is also backed by the heart and soul of indian constitution i.e. Preamble of the Constitution which ensures the security of all its citizen's liberty of thought and expression. However no right can be absolute in any modern state to ensure social control, therefore this right is subject to reasonable restrictions mentioned in clause 2 to 6 of Article 19 of Indian Constitution.

It implies that freedom of speech is pre-eminent and indispensable in the functioning of Democracy. As held in the case of Romesh Thapper vs State of Madras:
Freedom of speech and of the press lay at the foundation of all democratic organizations, for without free political discussion no public education, so essential for proper functioning of the popular Government, is possible.

But a the sudden surge in exploitation of rights of expression with an aim to disturb the democracy and influence the political processes mostly in democratic countries has threatened the geopolitics, international relations, general elections and internal governmental administration.

With the all time high engagement on social media the concept of reasonable restriction seems diminishing due to its vast connectivity and less accountability. Social media giants like Facebook, twitter, whatsapp are no doubt a boost in right of expression but their neutrality is questioned every now and then. Hence a great tool for political propaganda, hate speech, negative influence and forigen interference in elections and democratic functions of a nation.

Exploitation of right to speech and expression recent trends

Right to speech and expression is a privilege of having a voice in a nation. This right is exercised to have and express a view about government's conduct. Communication between government and its citizens takes place in different forms like through elected representatives, protests, voting etc is the medium of understanding requirements of population and shortcomings in policies which positively helps in governance.

But now this communication seems to have hijacked as fake protests, crowds, social media bots, fake accounts, promotion of specific ideology have flooded the worldwide. Companies like Crowd on Demand in the USA which allegedly has been involved in providing mobs and crowds for any purpose in various events, even celebrity events. This so called service is also being made available in India. This is what defames democracy and influences the voters. This is no surprise that paid propaganda promotion is a business in the celebrity community, which not only provides money but with fame too.

The problem arises because the principle of reasonable restrictions seems helpless in uncensored use of news and social media platforms.

The principle of reasonable restrictions in India under clause 2 of article 19 of Indian Constitution provides the following as grounds of reasonable restrictions.
  1. Security of state
  2. Friendly relation with Foreign state
  3. Public order
  4. Decency or Morality
  5. Contempt of court
  6. Defamation
  7. Incitement of an offence
  8. Sovereignty of integrity of India

News Media and press

Freedom to speech and expression includes expression through words of mouth, writing, painting, picture, gesture etc. Thus freedom to publish or broadcast becomes an integral part of propagation of view and its circulation.

Due to its important media known as the fourth pillar of democracy, importance adds more because of the principle of people's right to know. Supreme court of India in the case of Prabhu Datt vs Union of India held that right to know news and information regarding administration of government is included in freedom of press but no right is absolute.

News media with freedom of expression has a very specific and important purpose to serve some of them are 1. Discovery of truth 2. Knowledge about govt policies 3. helps in election of the right govt 4. awareness about false news 5. helps knowing rights and protection laws 6. views and opinion of experts.

Indian television media seems to be experimenting by fabricating the facts in different tones i.e. noisy, busting and conveying news by exaggerating. It is crucial to understand the power of polarisation that can be created through the media, thus it has a great responsibility that's the reason it's called the fourth pillar of Democracy.

Main problem of media polarization in Indian media is scarcity of funding for media houses. News channels publishing houses and news websites have to manage from the earnings of advertisement which seems inadequate for their expenses.

In these situations, in order to generate more income, media houses have to explore for other income sources. Hence a bit of polarization or paid view promotion seems a good source of income for them. However this can be eradicated if the government, to promote fair media allocates funds for media or if donations are given from consumers and organizations.

Issues of polarization Social media giants

Social Media platform is a world in itself. Its credibility has always been questioned in political and democratic terms not only in India but in various other major countries. Giants like twitter and facebook have great features of personalized preference of view suggestion hence political brainwashing is not a big deal for them.

Social media is indeed a revolutionary platform to make this right to expression easily exercisable though huge connectivity, but recent trend shows this connectivity is uncensored and uncontrolled, consequently resulting in Foreign propaganda intervention, fake news, political encroachment in other country's democratic processes.

Citizens of the USA admit there has been a deep engagement of social media giants in presidential elections right from 2012, afterwards usage of political ideology promotion, biasness and deployment of bot accounts to promote ideology spread propaganda has determined the fate of elections to a great extent.

Vested interests are very nicely met on social media platforms and influence of these social media giants has grown so strong that they sometimes refuse to comply with law and order of foreign land.

As recently Twitter refused to remove 1178 accounts on the order of Indian Government, which were allegedly being operated from Foreign territory to promote fake news and disturbance in India. Where twitter was found to be giving it's own excuses of freedom of expression instead of following instructions of Government which were under reasonable restrictions clause under national security, Sovereignty of integrity of India and public order clause. These social media giants sometimes fail to understand that integrity and good governance of any country is its priority.

Foreign Influence

Foreign Influence in political processes of any other country is no new trend. Almost all major elections are alleged to be somehow influenced by external intervention. But this is always unconfirmed how effective it has been in government formation. Recent US presidential elections in 2020 were also alleged to be influenced by several foreign countries.

This is totally against morality and integrity of a country but this issue is not dealt under right to expression internationally because it's immoral per-se. Almost every powerful neighbouring country tries to form a government which supports its ideologies in the other countries. This is done to gain influence in other countries.

But the notable fact is that almost all propaganda and intervention is done on social media platforms who claim to be totally irrelevant to elections.

Right to speech and expression is a great privilege to be given by the government to its citizens. No right is absolute, right to speech and expression is subject to some reasonable restrictions we must respect it.We are fortunate enough to be able to enjoy this right as a basic human right provided that we must use it cautiously, so that it doesn't destroy our own law and order which itself guaranteed us their rights.

Democracy and basic guaranteed rights both are a blessing for a country and its citizens, and it's our duty to let it prevail and flourish.

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