Freedom of expression is said to be the mother of all liberties. For a country to be truly democratic and sovereign in nature, the freedom of expression has to be substantially granted to its citizens. Freedom of speech, amongst other liberties, is considered to be the first condition for liberty. The right to freely express one’s thoughts and beliefs through speech and writing, as well as through the use of images, photographs, and other media, is known as freedom of speech.


The right to free expression is now largely acknowledged as the foundation of a free society and as such, it must always be protected. The unrestricted exchange of ideas in a public arena is the foundational tenet of a free society. The unrestricted freedom to express ideas and opinions, especially without concern for repercussions, is crucial to the growth of a given society and, eventually, a given state. One of the most significant fundamental liberties protected from official repression or control is this one.

The right to free speech is protected by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among others. It is also protected by the constitutions and laws of various states. These declarations specifically mention the preservation of the right to free speech and expression.


The freedom of speech grants to a citizen, the essential feeling behind living in a free society. Apart from this component, there are other justifications as to why the freedom of expression needs to be protected in nations. 

    • For open and complete discussions : Freedom of speech helps citizens to engage in meaningful and open discussions that enable them to discuss defects in the rule of the government and recognize various gaps in laws that are enacted.
  • For self fulfillment and development : Each person has a fundamental right to their own self-actualization and freedom of speech. Limiting what we are permitted to hear, read, and speak will prevent our personalities from developing. It aids someone in achieving self-fulfillment.
  • For expressing political opinions and beliefs – Freedom of speech gives people the chance to express their political opinions and beliefs. In the end, it contributes to the wellbeing of the nation and society. Thus, the right to free expression offers a mechanism through which it would be feasible to strike a fair balance between societal development and stability.

Protection of free speech is crucial for the open exchange of ideas that leads to the discovery of truth, for personal growth and fulfillment, for expressing political opinions, and for active involvement in democracies. 


The Constitution of the United States of America provides the Freedom of Speech along with its various interpretations that have a wide ambit for the citizens. Freedom of speech, assembly, press, and petition are granted in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. This set of freedoms are what comprise the Freedom of Expression in America. 

One of the earliest significant cases where the Supreme Court was asked to invalidate a legislation for infringing the Free Speech Clause was Schenck v. United States. It was a case involving the Sedition Act of 1918, which made statements that were “disloyal,” “scurrilous,” or “abusive” towards the government illegal. In this instance, the Supreme Court ruled that “the question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” As a result, the court created a new theory of “clear and present danger” in this case.


  • Press and Freedom of Speech 

The US Constitution takes a liberal approach when it comes to this freedom and also makes sure that the Courts invalidate any action which deems to restrict the freedom of press. The Freedom of press is an essential component of political and social intercourse and hence it requires to be protected but is subject to certain restrictions, for example a person cannot use the freedom of press to perform slander or libel against a person. 

In Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned a state regulation that required newspapers to publish the answers of political candidates to criticisms they had made. The law, according to the state, was passed to ensure press accountability. The Supreme Court concluded that the government cannot force newspapers to publish content that they do not want to print since only freedom and not press responsibility is required by the First Amendment.


  • Obscenity 

The Supreme Court has typically declined to grant obscenity any protection because the first amendment of the constitution, which governs freedom of expression in large part, did not address obscenity and free speech. The creation of appropriate legislation has been allowed by both the federal and state governments. However, the court occasionally created other tests to determine obscenity. The Court used a novel criteria for determining obscenity in Roth v. United States, asking “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.” This is referred to as the obscenity Ruth test.


  • Defamation 

Liability for defamatory speech or publication, such as slander and libel, is also recognised under American law. The Supreme Court fundamentally altered the nature of American defamation law in its decision in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan in 1964. In that case, The New York Times had published an advertisement alleging that authorities in Montgomery, Alabama had used violence to quell African-American protests during the Civil rights movement.

The explanation above makes it obvious that while Americans had genuine freedom of speech, the American judicial system has also developed extremely solid grounds for restricting that freedom. Seditious Speech and Seditious Libel, Fighting Words and Other Threats to the Peace, Defamation, Group Libel, and Hate Speech are some of the restrictions that apply. 


In India, there is a specific place for freedom of speech. The fact that the preamble of the constitution guarantees to all people, among other things, liberty of thought, expression, religion, faith, and worship makes it simple to comprehend the significance of freedom of speech and expression. The Preamble of the Constitution contains the constitutional significance of freedom of speech, which is turned into “freedom of speech and expression” in Article 19(1)(a) as a fundamental and human right.The right to freely express one’s thoughts and beliefs through speech and writing, as well as through the use of images, photographs, and other media, is known as freedom of speech. Thus, it encompasses the communication of one’s ideas by any visual or audible means, such as gesture, signs, and the like.


  • Freedom of Press 

Although the freedom of the press is not expressly mentioned in Article 19, it is a fundamental right that is inherent in the freedom of speech and expression. In the well-known case Express Newspapers (Bombay) (P) Ltd. v. Union of India, the court made a very astute observation about the value of the press. In this decision, the court ruled that “freedom of the press is the foundation of social and political discourse in today’s free world.” In the developed world, where television and other forms of contemporary communication are still not widely accessible to all segments of society, the press has now taken on the role of the public educator, enabling formal and non-formal education on a global scale. Press advancement for the public is the press’s goal.


  • Obscenity 

Even though it is promised, freedom of speech is not unrestricted in India. The Indian Constitution’s text explicitly outlines limitations on free speech, in contrast to the U.S. Constitution. The right to free expression protected by Article 19(1)(a) may be subject to legitimate state restrictions for reasons of morality or decency. According to Indian law, obscenity is anything that is “offensive to modesty or decency; lewd, filthy and repulsive.” Each work must be evaluated independently because it was stated that the test for obscenity is whether the publication, when read as a whole, has a propensity to deprave and corrupt individuals whose brains are susceptible to such immoral effects.


  • Right to Information 

Another aspect of freedom of expression is the right to information and knowledge. The freedom of speech and expression includes the rights to information, including the right to know, receive, and impart knowledge. A citizen has a fundamental right to access telecasting for the purpose of communicating and receiving information using the best means possible. The Official Secrets Act of 1923’s Section 5 prohibiting the disclosure of certain official papers has not yet been overturned by the right to know. Even the Right to Information Act of 2005, which specifically addresses the freedom of the public to request information from public officials, forbids the disclosure of some documents under section 8 of the Act. 


One of the fundamental rights that civic society provides is freedom of speech. However, in the current world, exercising one’s right to freedom of speech and expression means more than just using words to express one’s opinions; it also means disseminating those opinions in writing, through audiovisual media, through marketing, and through any other form of communication. It also includes press freedom, the right to information, and other things. It is an expression and self-realization right. America and India, two of the world’s largest democracies, have remarkably upheld this freedom. This significant right is indicated in Article 19(1) (a), which belongs to the category of fundamental rights, with regard to India. The purpose and meaning of Article 19(1) have traditionally been given a liberal interpretation by Indian courts.


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