A recent incident in France has shaken the World, where two gunmen entered a weekly magazine office and killed 5 people including some famous journalists and cartoonists. This act is being considered as a reaction against some of the cartoons published by the magazine featuring Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, in various comic poses. These cartoons were largely opposed by the Muslim communities all around the World.
This incident has raised several questions over the freedom of speech and expression that is supposed to be enjoyed by all the mediums of mass communication. Like:
What are the do’s and don’ts when you are designing a mass message?
How free a person is while he is writing and expressing himself?
If someone communicates or writes what he wants to, then are these kinds of reactions acceptable?
In the race of selling a product or service in this competitive market, companies are advertising and marketing themselves. Each of them tries to design the most persuasive advertising messages. Here comes the question, what are the regulations and extent of freedom of speech, within which an advertising message should be designed?
In India, ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) have set certain regulations in the view of:
- Ensuring truthfulness and honesty of representations and claims made through advertising and safeguarding customers against misleading advertising.
- Ensuring that advertising is not offensive as per generally accepted norms and standards of public decency.
- Safeguarding against indiscriminate use of advertising for promotion of products or services which are generally regarded as hazardous to society or to individuals or which are unacceptable to society as a whole.
- Ensuring that advertisements observe fairness in competition and the canons of generally accepted competitive behavior.
So, even India, where freedom of speech is a fundamental right (Rights Protected by the constitution) you are not completely free to write or say anything in an advertisement until & unless you can prove it, otherwise some legal actions can be taken against you. For example, ASCI upholds a complaint against an advertisement of Lifebuoy soap (Hindustan Unilever Ltd) claiming 10 times more protection from germs as compared to other soaps which was not substantiated. Drop your views over the freedom of speech in advertising in the comment box.