Is ‘Freedom of Speech’ included in the Human Rights Act 1998?
Freedom of Speech or expression is classified as a fundamental human right in UK law under the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). This act falls under Article 10 and is a vital part of British democracy. This acts means that we are free to hold our own opinions and ideas without the government interfering. However, this act is classified as a ‘qualified’ law. Which means that it can be restricted, this is to protect the rights of others or if it is in the public interests. An example of this is if the government limits the freedom of speech or expression if an individual or group is encouraging racist or derogatory behaviour.
What is Article 10?
Article 10 is included in the Human Rights Act 1998 and is designed to protect your right to hold your own opinions. This also means that you are entitled to express your views allowed, whether it be through public demonstration or protests. Other examples of freedom of expression or opinions are:
- TV or Radio
- Publishing books, leaflets, articles or blogs
- Internet and Social Media
This law is designed to protect your freedom to receive information from other people. This could be through reading a magazine or watching television. It is quite often used to defend press freedom and their sources.
The Fundamental Right
There is a reason that freedom of speech and expression is part of our Human Rights Act 1998 – it is a fundamental right. As British citizens we have the right to express ourselves freely without fear of persecution from others, this is not the case in some countries. It is one of our fundamental rights and is viewed as the building block of our society and democracy. There is a specific responsibility with this right because there are exceptions to this Act. If you are found to be publishing documents or making comments that are intended to spark any hatred or discrimination, it will be viewed as a hate crime. This is when your right can be restricted, and can potentially be charged in a criminal court.
What are the limitations of Freedom of Speech?
With this law, you have the right to express your views and opinions. However, you also must be respectful of other people’s rights. You may be limited or restricted by the courts or local authorities if they feel it necessary to intervene. Authorities have the right to restrict your freedom of speech if you are behaving in a discriminatory manner. However, if this is the case, the public body will have to act proportionately to address the issues at hand. Some instances where the local authorities can intervene are:
- To prevent disorder & crime: if a protest is becoming a safety issue to other individuals.
- To protect the rights of other individuals
- Protect National security, and public safety
- Prevent the disclosure of information that was given in confidence
- Protect the health or morals of individuals.
The government does have an obligation to freedom of speech if it is used for the wrong means. The restriction is sometimes essential if it can impact the rights or reputations of others.
When should you use this right?
This right allows you to publically express your opinions freely, whether it be about our public institution or government without fear of prosecution. This act is essential for those working in media. It does not prevent the government from imposing specific restriction within the press if it was to conflict with another individual’s right. For example, the right to respect a person’s private life.
Responsibilities and Freedom of Speech
Our government views the importance of freedom of speech and expression, which is why it is included in our Human Rights Act. However, if this right is misused, then there are consequences. Freedom of speech may be an essential part of our society, but as individuals, we need to be aware that using this right in a responsible way is a necessity.
Freedom of speech is one of our most misunderstood laws, and if you require any advice then contact our legal team at Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors today. Use your freedom of speech as the powerful tool that it is, and speak out for those who are denied theirs.