Freedom of Expression: Criticizing Public Officials
Amsterdam Law Forum
10 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2011
Date Written: 2009
In what follows, I summarize an argument against prohibitions on freedom of speech with regard to criticism directed at public officials- namely, every person who has a legal power in an institution of the state, including the legislative branch (particularly parliament member), the judiciary (particularly judges) and the executive branch (including, for example, prosecutes, police officers)- and public institutions (rather than a public official at the institution) and the government in general (rather than a specific institution). Such criticism can include, for example, claims regarding the morality or legality of actions of public officials (for example, a claim that a police officer is corrupt), their qualifications (for example, a claim that a judge is lazy), or the efficiency of a certain institution (for example, the army). I argue that there are strong considerations in favor of criticizing the performance of public officials (and institutions), and especially against legal (and particularly criminal) limitations on such criticism, and relatively weak considerations against this criticism, especially with regard to legal (and particularly criminal) limitations on criticizing public officials.
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