Opinion

Is there really democracy without freedom of expression?

By Oyiti Pernyang

This question has been luring in the minds of many people and still upto now they failed to understand. According to Wikipedia an online dictionary, democracy is defined as a system of governance in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a government body, such as legislature.

Democracy is sometimes referred to as “rule of the majority.” The system in which the citizens of a country exercise their rights to vote for whom they wanted to rule them is democracy. But can democracy function without the state of being free to raise concerns that affect you, and to identify or suggest possible solutions to solve them without being oppressed or silenced?

In the real sense most of the African politician’s talks of democracy is just to gain power, they talk sweetly and sing lullaby songs just to entice the citizens such that they cast their votes in their favor during elections, then after securing the seat the promises made to the citizens during election campaigns are dashed into the dust pin.

Western Countries and some of the African Countries which are regarded to be stable consider democracy as a tool of development and prosperity, by doing so they also encourage freedom of expression because the two matches together. Democratic nations are the ones where their citizens enjoy the freedom of expression, but not where citizens are oppressed and silenced.

Democratic nations are the nations where the citizens’ issues are considered to contend to arising problems. Democratic nations are the nations where their governments listen carefully to its citizens. Democratic nations are the ones whose governments find solutions to problems which affect its citizens not one which find problems to the solutions. Democratic nations are the ones whose government protects its population from any kind of outrages. Democratic nations are the ones whose government provides services to its population.

How can democracy be attained when there is no freedom of expression? How can development take place when citizens are not allowed to express their views and opinions about their nation? Every government on earth has three basic functions that it need to fulfill to its citizens which includes; Security.

Every citizen in any country has the right to be protected from any kind of uncharacteristic tragedy which may cost their lives or health, second is justice and equality; this is very essential, every citizen is entitle to justice and equality and it’s the government’s role to oversee that justice is in place and lastly provision of services delivery; it’s the responsibility of the government to deliver services to its citizens, services such as health facilities, schools and infrastructures.

Therefore, if the citizens are not given the right to express their voices how will the government get to know exarctly where the problems are arising from in order to improve on? It is believed that silence means two things either ‘we’re okay or we’re not okay’ but if the citizens are threatened or silenced from saying we’re not okay and forced to say we’re okay even if they’re not what do you expect, then that is of course dictatorship. Most of the African leaders fear to encourage freedom of expression in their countries for the fear of being exposed of their bad deeds, and to either continue with their bad deeds or to maintain their positions as long as they wish to.

In countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia and many others, it is considered a national threat for the citizens to raise issues which affects the well being of the nation; citizens of those countries are oppressed and silenced. That’s why their populations are seeking refuge everywhere in the world, others like the Eritreans and Ethiopians are risking their lives to cross Mediterranean Sea to go to Europe in search for better life and to free themselves from oppressions in their countries of origin. If citizens are leaving their own country because of oppressions then there is no doubt that its government is the one forcing them to leave the country. Freedom of speech can only be regarded as a national threat when it incites violence, conspiracy and very high profile issues, but criticism such as poor governance, corruption, injustices and demonstrations are not security threats these are citizen’s’ rights, the authorities responsible might even need the information to share with the leaders such that they can evaluate themselves to be aware of their weakness and know what the citizens really want. The leaders in the government should be made aware of their weaknesses in order to improve or change but if the citizens are oppressed and denied freedom to expression then how will the government get to know its weakness and problems being faced by its citizens.

There is no government without the people and no people without the government, the two cannot exist without the other, and therefore they should coincide. Give the citizens what they want and the citizens will also give what you want; tit for tat is a fair game. Wise leaders are the ones who try hard to minimize their weakness by accepting corrections and expecting denunciations, but this is not the case when it comes to African leadership. It is our culture here in Africa that we don’t give up to challenges and criticisms instead we consider people who correct us as enemies, that is why we are unable to solve our own common problems. Countries in Africa which are regarded as peaceful consider freedom of expression that’s why they’re prospering and are peaceful, and exactly what will make citizens criticize its own government? According to my own point of view, it is their own weakness that leads to their criticism.

Freedom of expression is the backbone of democracy; therefore a country is not democratic when its citizens are not allowed to excercise their freedom of expressions. Again the main role of the government is to serve the interest of its citizens if it doesn’t, then it should expect criticisms without doubts. Citizens might raise criticisms against their leaders acusing them of being corrupt, unjust, and they may demonstrate demanding the steping down of their leaders or raising concern about the economic crisis, is there anything wrong about that? To my own views there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, its exactly what it meant to be in a democratic nation. Freedom of expression is amended in many of the African countries’ consititutions as just a writen decument but yet the citizens are not allowed to fully excercise it.  Why deny the citizens their rights, yet you claim your governments are democratic goverments? If you don’t want criticism then fulfill the jobs that your citizens have elected you for. Much as freedom of expression is observed, democracy will be attained and prosperity will be achieved.

 

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