When is it alright to disregard one person’s human rights to fulfil another’s?


By Jasmine Thomas

Human rights are rights (legal entitlements) essential to all human beings, regardless of our nationality, sex, ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. Human rights as described in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights or the Human Rights Act 1998 in the UK include such things as:

  • The right to life, liberty and security of person
  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance

We are all equally entitled to human rights, such as the ones listed above, without discrimination. These rights are consistent, interdependent and inseparable. But although a vast majority of countries have subscribed to these general principals, including the UK,  many times leaders pick and choose whether they follow all of these or not.

This blog is not going to tackle something as big or political as the enforcement of international human rights, but I am going to tackle it from a point of view as someone who lives in a country where we pride ourselves on being diverse and respectful of such rights.  I am also tackling this issue as someone who has seen first-hand someone’s human right to privacy be affected by another’s right to freedom of expression.

I experienced this the other day at a social event where over the course of the evening a friend of mine behaved in a manner that was not very flattering.  In the grand scheme of things, the situation wasn’t that serious and could have been dealt with among our group of friends until it was posted on Facebook for not only all her friends and family to see, but everyone else who was tagged in the post and their friends making the situation much worse. The simple act of posting a picture on Facebook allowed people who weren’t at the event or involved to become involved and bully and harass my friend about her actions. Her name wasn’t directly used, but through word of mouth, we knew it was about her. This event has raised many of questions for me.

Can we really trust the people around us?

When did someone else’s painfully bad mistakes become everyone else’s entertainment?

But perhaps the most important question was why was this allowed to happened and no one tried to stop it, but in fact joined in?

Although we, as “mature secondary school students” think bullying is for primary school children, it’s not. With the assistance of social media, these petty behaviours now follow us through our teenage years and even into our adult life. Today, we are no longer being bullied for stupid things like our choice of clothing, but for being human and for making mistakes just like everyone else. More importantly, once something is posted online it can never be deleted.

Be aware no matter how angry, upset or how funny something seems at the time, we should all think twice before we make that post, tweet or send that picture. Do we want this phrase, picture or post to stay with us forever? Even I have to be careful when writing this blog.

The question for my generation is:

“How far should we allow someone’s freedom of expression to go online before we stop to consider someone’s right to privacy?”


Mistakes, embarrassing moments or bad things can be forgotten, what’s written about them can’t.