Non-Spoken and Media Expression
Adopted from the book : "Freedom; The Unstated Facts and Points" by : "Ayatullah Misbah Yazdi"
An issue that must be given attention is that books, periodicals, media, films, the Internet, and in sum, anything that in one way or another performs the function of message transfer, in reality, are the diverse kinds of expression and communication. In order to communicate to others his thoughts, beliefs, inclinations, and anything transpires in his mind and heart, man makes use of language, speech and writing.
Similarly, in a bid to communicate his message to others, he sometimes makes use of other body parts such as the eyes, eyebrows, hands, and feet. At other times, he does the same through drawings and paintings. All of them are means to do a single work, i.e. transfer of one’s message to others.
With such a perspective, it is very clear that the newspaper, magazine, book, theatre, film, caricature, radio, television, the Internet, etc. in reality are all “various kinds of expression”, and every legal decree that expression and speech have can also be applied to them.
Therefore, if, for example, Islam states that insulting or embarrassing others, or divulging the secret of the private and personal life of others by means of talking and speaking are not allowed and in some cases they are to be prevented, prosecuted and penalized, doing the same acts through film, newspaper, book, and caricature has the same ruling and it makes no difference whether a person insults and embarrasses others by speaking, or does it by writing in a book or newspaper.
Some think that the paper of the newspaper has sanctity such that by speaking you cannot baselessly attribute something unjustifiable to somebody, but without any supporting document and evidence and only based on the fact that “it is said” or “it is heard” a whole page of the newspaper can be filled with accusations against an individual.
Sometimes you talk to a person face to face from a close distance, expressing to him love and affection. At other times, you write the same expression of love, interest and affection in a letter, which you send to the person concerned. Do these two forms of expression differ from each other? Does the face-to-face way an expression of love while the one inscribed on the paper an expression of hatred? Once the subject is the same, whether it is uttered by the tongue or inscribed by the pen on a sheet of paper, there is no difference.
Yes, there is a difference between them, for once you write and publish it in the book and newspaper its effect is ten times, hundred times, or probably thousand times greater. If abusing, calumniating and accusing a person by means of speech face to face is bad, writing it in a letter or expressing it through a film and play is equally bad and unacceptable;
it makes no difference (as far as the badness of the act is concerned). If embarrassing a person in front of others by means of speech is bad, embarrassing him in front of thousands and millions of people by means of publishing an essay in a book and newspaper is far worse. It is not that all at once the ruling would be changed and since it was in the newspaper, it is not only not bad but also it would be regarded as sacred.
Therefore, mass media in Islam has no ruling distinct from that of oral expression. If the “spoken” form of something has been morally deemed forbidden, expressing the same through other media is also morally forbidden. If its “spoken” form has been unlawful [hara-m], its expression in any other means is also unlawful.
If the “spoken” expression of something has been recognized by the legal law as not allowed and prohibited and penalty for doing so is determined, the ruling for expressing the same through other media is also the same. On the contrary, if “spoken” expression of something and spoken reaction to it is deemed obligatory [wa-jib], in the case of having facilities expressing the same through other communication media is equally obligatory.
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