Know your rights : You are entitled to speak your mind

April 04, 2017
Shirley Richards protesting in front the UWI Mona campus in support of Professor Brendan Bain who was fired from his post at the campus in 2014.

Jamaicans enjoy freedom of expression. Everyone has an opinion on how the Government should operate and on the various topical issues of the day. We express our opinions on radio, on television, by writing letters to the press, on various platforms across the country, in town halls, on street corners, in bars, and on our verandas.

We criticise or praise the decisions of the Government on taxes, pension, crime, and other matters.

Our freedom to do so is protected by law, which says that we should not be prevented or hindered in the enjoyment of our freedom of expression.

But what is freedom of expression? The law says that it includes "the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference and freedom from interference with his correspondence and other means of communication".

Simply put, it is the right to free speech.

Of course, freedom comes with responsibility, and we should not abuse it by harming the reputation of others. There are safeguards in law to protect those who have been harmed by the misuse of this right to free speech.

As such, there are specific circumstances where the right to freedom of expression can be restricted, including:

- Instances where the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health are threatened.

- For the protection of the reputations, rights, and freedoms of other persons, or the private lives of persons concerned in legal proceedings.

- To prevent the disclosure of information received in confidence.

- To maintain the independence and authority of the courts.

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