Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is a human right that those who have can take for granted. Those who don’t have the luxury of being able to voice their opinions without fear of repercussions, however, take freedom of speech very seriously. 

In a democratic society, people can voice their opinion on all issues including politics, religion and welfare without fear of recrimination. But this is not the case for millions across the globe who must edit what they say to avoid punishment enforced by government bodies including the police. 

The United States Universal Declaration of Human Rights preserves the right to freedom of speech and most countries formally recognise this right within the laws of the country. However, authoritarian governments may enforce censorship laws which can create an unrealistic image of life in a country to outsiders. 

Many countries profess to have freedom of speech, but journalists may be asked not to publish certain news items that may create a negative impression of government departments, the police or government-owned institutions.

Freedom of speech doesn’t just concern the spoken word. The law also relates to written articles, art, and any form of self-expression that can be accessed by the public.

While freedom of speech gives everyone a voice; obscenities, poor taste, defamation of character and hate speech are illegal in many countries and with freedom of speech and cases can be brought in front of a court of law.

A whole new arena has opened up for the legal system with the rise of internet use, social media and blogging platforms. Internet ‘trolls’ are those who use their right to ‘freedom of speech’ in a threatening, slanderous or bullying manner.

While online freedom of speech is still a bone of contention, a fine line still exists between freedom of speech and cyberbullying.  In a democratic society, everyone has the human right to freedom of expression, but this comes with a responsibility to make sure that right is exercised positively and proactively.