“Restrictions on Freedom of Expression for National Security/Public Order”  

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Article 19 and 21 of ICCPR, is the provision for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. There is restriction mentioned in the article 19, paragraph 3 and also in article 21, which provides limitation to right to freedom. National security and public order are part of the restrictions. Article 19 of the ICCPR talks about freedom of expression with certain restrictions during state emergency, national security, public health reputation of others, etc. This article provides freedom of expression in every possible manner without any interference except during tough times only such right is taken away from the people. Similarly, article 21 of the ICCPR provides right to peaceful assembly, no restrictions can be placed on this right but during emergency, threat to national security, public health, public order, this right can be restricted by the state, if required. 

The Johannesburg Principles narrow down the definition of national security and specify that it can be only applicable when there is ‘direct and immediate connection’ that exists between incitement of violence and occurrence of violence or likelihood of such occurrence and therefore extremist opinion is differentiated from likelihood of terrorism and its expression. ‘National security’ is invoked as a limitation when the political independence or the territorial integrity of the State is at risk. In AK and AR v Uzbekistan, the authors were held with for involving in some terrorist group and held that the state hadn’t violated any freedom of expression of the authors. Common national security restrictions also prohibits on transmitting any official secrets of the state. In the case of Sunday Times v United Kingdom, it was held that few persons were convicted for publishing secret information of M15 officers and their mission details. Extreme care needs to be taken while framing and applying laws related to national security and sedition, which should be as per article 19(3) of the ICCPR. The protection of the state externally as well as internally is the main task that every government do and in that if anyone found creating any hindrance in this can be punished with serious punishments as per the law of the land. The state government and its various agencies are constantly working on protection of national security but at times there are certain instances that harms the security of the state and that shouldn’t be tolerated at all by any nation. Safety of the citizens, some confidential information of government agencies needs to be protected anyhow, no compromise should be made for it. 

For the maintenance of public order, at times permission should be granted to make a speech at any public place. ‘Public order’ is a broader concept than national security and also can be

defined as the sum of rules which ensure the peaceful and effective functioning of society’ Common restrictions for public order as per article 19 are free public speech at a public place which incite violence, crime or gathering of mass people. Prohibition of mass broadcasting without a licence may also be justified as a public order measure to prevent confusion of signals and blockage of the airwaves. Public order disobedience is considered as a serious offence. When there is lacking of public order, chaos stays at supreme and public spaces become unsafe. History is full of examples of disasters and tragedies taking place when public order was not maintained. To cite a recent example, public order fell apart in London on August 14, 2018, when a suspected terrorist drove a car through a barrier close to the Houses of Parliament

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The concept of national security and public order is one of the most matters in any nation. Article 19 and 21 states about freedom of expression and peaceful assembly with certain restrictions in order to enjoy this right every time. There will always be certain level of criticism in any nation, but such criticism needs to be heard in every democratic society and no one should be punished for positive criticism in public or at private space. When there is peaceful assembly for some important issue prevailing in any nation that is definitely allowed as per provisions of article 21 of the ICCPR, but for that prior permission from the government is must in order to conduct any such assembly at a public place. For freedom of expression it’s not like one has every right to target anybody and publish his/her personal or confidential information in public without consent of such person. Every right we enjoy is always demanding some responsibility in order to enjoy it. No provisions of ICCPR explicitly prohibits any individual for expressing his thoughts or conducting any assembly at a public place, but when there are tough times or some sort of governmental information which is confidential at such times their right to expression freely and for conducting assembly are restricted for some period of time. During tough times it is the duty of every individual to obey any order or instructions of the state government, without creating any problem in it. Every state should be openly accept positive criticism and work on it, it is the duty of the state not to do any harm to such individuals who keep their point in a positive manner. The national security and public order, however cannot be applied by the State on its whims,

they have to be precise in explaining how the act or conduct of the person(s) is harmful for

national security or the public order.


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