Seasons of Silence Volume VI August 2021

About This Project


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In Pakistan and across the globe, the surge in regressive politics and increasing curbs on free speech by states have severely jeopardised the fundamental right of freedom of opinion and expression, guaranteed to all individuals by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Freedom of speech and expression and Press are guaranteed (subject to “reasonable restrictions”) by Article19 of the Constitution of Pakistan. However, given Pakistan’s chequered democratic and legal history, civil and press freedoms have consistently suffered under various governments. In more recent times, the state’s politics around the War on Terror, increasing economic vulnerabilities, internal strife, and the rise of the populist right have made for a more dangerous mix. Free speech forms the foundation of a democratic society. It is a prerequisite for the realisation of other rights ranging from the family to the state, such as the right to choice and decision making in the home and including the right vote, free assembly, and freedom of association, and is essential in ensuring press freedom. Dissent and the freedom to think freely and without fear are powerful tools that not only hold up a mirror to society and protect citizen’s rights but also ensure and enable reflection, creativity, and progress. Especially during periods of curtailment and clampdown, it is important to critically assess the legal mechanisms and political conditions that hold the polity together. Bayan’s newest edition 2021 Volume VI explores freedom of speech in detail: from the evolution of the idea of “free speech” within the Pakistani context, to the regulation of free speech, and to the lived on-and-offline realities of vulnerable groups like women. The volume seeks to bring forth nuanced critiques and diverse perspectives that can help in envisioning a freer and more democratic future.