Freedom of Expression
Freedom of expression is a basic foundation of democracy and can be considered as one of the most fundamental aspects of all kinds of freedom. It is a core to the definition of freedom and without it, democracy cannot exist. The term is not only related to freedom of speech or freedom to write in media but also freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. Presence of freedom of expression means guarantee for every individual to write and speak openly without any interferences by the government. People can inform public, advocate for an alternative idea and provide an opinion about what they think is right or wrong. It provides opportunity to the minority to raise their voices and to become heard, because democracy is not just for majority. If people are free to express their ideas freely without the fear of retaliation, then creativity of people can be harnessed for the benefit of everyone.
There are many democratic countries where anti-freedom of expression components like censorship exists. Censorship means the use of state or group power to control freedom of expression, such as passing laws to prevent media from being published or propagated. So, in those countries, democracy will only be for the people who have an access to authority.
In Nepal, though we have democracy, we were not very able to fully realize freedom of expression. Before 2008, royal families use to be above constitution and it was illegal for people to express criticism to their ideas or to say anything against them. After the declaration of interim constitution, we have been able to exercise freedom of expression to a larger extent, but as the country is forwarding towards impunity, everyone has to think twice before giving his/her critical views against any one. There are many instances whereby reporters have been killed because they have written a critical report against different parties.
Until and unless freedom of expression is guaranteed in a political system, democracy will not be able to bring about equal treatment for every individual and only the people who have an access to power and authority may be able to enjoy democracy. Freedom of expression also secures other important fundamentals of democracy like pluralism and free, fair and regular election. Without freedom of expression, political parties also cannot campaign properly which can lead to unfair competition during election. So, to ensure democracy for all, freedom of expression is very important.