• Saturday, Aug 24, 2019
  • Last Update : 11:55 pm

Making room for criticism

  • Published at 11:48 pm January 31st, 2019
Mic
BIGSTOCK

The right to engage in criticism should be applicable not just within parliament, but for larger society as well

Criticism and debate regarding the government’s policies are essential components of any well-functioning democracy.

It is reassuring that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said no barriers will be made towards criticisms of the government in parliament, which means all members of parliament will get an equal chance to speak up.

Ideally, the right to engage in criticism should be applicable not just within parliament, but for larger society as well.

Press freedom, for example, is of the utmost importance towards safeguarding democratic rights, and it does not bode well that journalists have been feeling a shrinking of the space for debate in recent times.

When laws are so broadly written that avenues are opened up for abuse, those laws need rethinking, and better safeguards need to be in place for the airing of unpopular opinions.

This in no way means there should be total impunity for all kinds of speech -- in fact, as the world gets more and more digital, there need to be laws and measures in place to prevent the spreading of rumours and falsehoods, often with the intention of making the government look bad.

But such safeguards should not be used to silence or punish ordinary citizens; crucially, they should not remove the basic democratic right of engaging in constructive criticism.

Freedom of speech is a friend, not an enemy, to the government, and by facilitating and protecting a free press and citizen’s voices, the government encourages responsible, rigorous journalism, and reduces the spread of destructive lies.