1. Nobel Peace Prize, 2021
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 1, II, IV: Society, Polity, governance, ethics.
Sub Theme: Freedom of expression | UPSC
Two journalists win Nobel Peace Prize for defending freedom of expression
The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia. The Philippines ranks 138 out of 180 countries in the RSF’s global index. Russia ranks even lower down the RSF Index: 150 out of 180 countries.
- According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2021 World Press Freedom Index, the situation for press freedom is “difficult or very serious” in 73% of the 180 countries it evaluates, and “good or satisfactory” in only 27%.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited their fight for freedom of expression, stressing that it is vital in promoting peace. – “Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda”
“Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time”.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION – NEED FOR PEACE
Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Freedom of expression serves as an enabler of all other rights (along with its corollaries of freedom of information and press freedom).
The UN General Assembly adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on 16 December 1966. ICCPR Article 19 states:
- Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
- Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
- The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary.
- For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
- For the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises that people with disability have the rights to freedom of expression and information which are recognised for all people in ICCPR Article 19. The CRPD also goes on to make clear that positive measures and not only non-interference are needed to ensure the enjoyment of these rights and specify some of the measures needed. Article 21 states that: States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others and through all forms of communication of their choice”
United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States states a right to freedom of speech and press freedom in more absolute terms than Article 19 of the ICCPR or the equivalent provision of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Congress shall make no law, abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.
- Autonomy is the root of human dignity and the sources of all morality – Immanuel Kant
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, DO HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION
- Maintaining one’s individuality
- Right to privacy is a fundamental right (K. S. Puttaswamy case).
- Navtej Singh Johar case – An individual’s right to develop one’s individuality against the demand of social conformity must be recognised.
- Individual freedom prevails over purported group rights, even in the matter of religion. (Shabrimala Judgement).
- Creativity – Rangarajan Vs P. Jagjeevan Ram case Mere threat to public order cannot be the ground to suppress freedom of expression
- Protection against discrimination:
- The lack of access to freedom of expression is a problem that particularly affects the already marginalised – minorities, LGBT, disabled etc.
- While the scale of their struggles varies greatly, the principle is the same: within the context of their society, these groups face greater barriers to freedom of expression than the majority.
- If they are unable to communicate their ideas, views, worries and needs effectively, means they are often excluded from meaningful participation in society, and from the opportunity to better their own circumstances.
- In other words, discrimination is one of the core elements of unequal access to freedom of expression.
- The right to express one’s sexuality is an aspect of the right to freedom of expression both in itself (as an expression of identity) but also because in countries where LGBT rights are not respected, the cultural expression of such rights is often also a political act. Cultural events organised by the LGBT community, such as pride parades, find themselves banned from exercising their right to freedom of assembly and expression.
- In Russia, the Duma recently voted in favor of a draft law to ban “homosexual propaganda”. The amendment, passed by an overwhelming majority, prohibits the “propaganda of homosexuality” (in a practical sense, the discussion of homosexually) to protect children. The bill would in effect seriously curtail the right to freedom of expression of LGBT people.
- Participatory democracy:
- The inability to have an impact on policy planning or to be heard are factors that also influence poor people’s increased feelings of vulnerability and inability to protect themselves against possible violations of their rights.
- The UNDP’s Human Development Report 2000 highlights the willingness to participate of the peoples of the world: “People do not want to be passive participants, merely casting votes in elections. They want to have an active part in the decisions and events that shape their lives.”
- Good governance: Literary and human rights organization PEN America warned that repressive governments are ramping up efforts to censor, surveil, and punish dissenters under the guise of “digital sovereignty.” Examples include the Indian government forcing Twitter and Facebook in April to remove posts critical of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Nigerian government banning Twitter in June after the platform removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari which critics say revived civil war sentiments.
- Development as Freedom: Access to free expression is also vital both to support the development process and as a development goal in its own right. The connection was perhaps most famously put forward by Amartya Sen in his widely cited book — Development as Freedom — where he argued that expansion of freedom is both the primary end and the principal means of development.
Development can be seen as a process of expanding the freedoms that people enjoy. And if freedom is what development is about then it makes sense to concentrate on that rather than on some of the means or instruments of achieving it.
Freedoms are not only the primary ends of development, they are also among its principal means. There are five distinct types of freedom, seen in this instrumental perspective: 1. political freedoms, 2. economic facilities, 3. social opportunities, 4.transparency guarantees, 5.protective security
A democratic society requires the guarantee of the widest possible circulation of news, ideas and opinions as well as the widest access to information by society as a whole. It is also in the interest of the democratic public order inherent in the American Convention that the right of each individual to express himself freely and that of society as a whole to receive information be scrupulously respected.
- Success of democracy:
One of the basic pillars of democratic systems is respect toward individuals’ basic rights in accordance with the principles of equality and non-discrimination.
Freedom of expression is a cornerstone upon which the very existence of a democratic society rests. It is indispensable for the formation of public opinion. It represents, in short, the means that enable the community, when exercising its options, to be sufficiently informed. Consequently, it can be said that a society that is not well informed is not a society that is truly free. Freedom of expression, therefore, is not just a right of individuals, but of society as a whole.
- Peace and conflict resolution
Not giving people the possibility of political participation and not allowing them to express themselves freely is a significant cause of conflict.
Lack of information can, at any stage of a conflict, make people desperate, restless and easy to manipulate. The ability to make informed decisions strengthens societies and fosters economic growth, democratic structures and the positive outlook on the future. For this very reason, the United Nations Millennium Declaration stressed the need “to ensure the freedom of the media to perform their essential role and the right of the public to have access to information”.
2. Digital divide on education
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II: Education system and Governance
Sub Theme: Digital inequality| UPSC
Supreme court has given its reservations and apprehensions that online education system has led to the rise of learning inequality. Large section of poor society is incapable to access online education as it does not possesses electronic gadgets or fast internet.
Supreme court has asked the government to compensate private school so as to enable them provide online education through Right to Education act.
In this regard it is important for us to understand the big picture on digital education system:
Safe digital education:
Advantages of Digital Education in India
During 2019-20 when India and the entire world were fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Digital Education in India was the sole source of learning for the students in the country. Discussed below are a few other benefits of Digital Education in India:
- This initiative has made students not just gain bookish information but also gain practical and technical knowledge
- No limitation as to the place of learning or studying. With digital learning, a student can engage in online classes or learning anywhere, at any time
- With study material available online, students can take their time to understand any topic
- Through the mode of digital education, learning can be made more engaging and interactive between the students and teachers
It is also important that Digital Education acts as a supplement and does not completely overpower physical education.
Challenges of Digital Education
- Lack of Proper Study Room: 71 per cent of households with three or more members have dwellings with two rooms or less (Census 2011).
- Inadequate Internet Penetration: 42 percent of urban and 15 percent of rural households had internet access. (NSSO 2017-18).
- Slow Internet Speed
- No Standard Policy: lack a proper policy on digital education, infrastructure, content, interaction and multiple languages.
- Lack of Social Cohesion: because children would not develop the sense of social interactions.
- Teacher Training: Teachers look after the mental, emotional and social health of children in schools which remain absent in online education.
- Issue of Parenting: Another challenge is to keep thousands of children out of school when their parents return to their work spaces post lock down.
Digital Education in India – Way Forward
- Developing quality e-content in local languages, to address the diversity of Indian languages.
- Addition of skill development courses, virtual labs, virtual vocational training.
- Framing of Online/Digital Education Guidelines addressing the digital divide.
- Developing digital classrooms by integrating education systems and technology.
- Developing framework for assessments in the era of digital education.
- Making sure of coherent user experience by multi-mode access to education through Mobile apps, web portals, TV channels, radio, podcasts.
- To enable “anytime, anywhere” access and increase penetration, focus will be on increasing usage of mobile phones.
- Priority for providing complete access to anytime, anywhere e-content and e-infrastructure is for all learners in schools; however, e-content is being developed with slightly varied priorities – Grades 12 to 9 covering 6.3 crore children will be the top most priority. The next in the table of priority will be from grades 8 to 6 covering students strength of 6.4 crore children. For grades 5 to 1, the priority will be on numeracy and foundational literacy.
- To leverage e-learning resources, teachers will be up-skilled.