Prison bars in a dark prison cell. This is what more and more journalists are waking up to every day. With the lack of free speech in many countries, journalists in prison are increasing. Freedom of speech is a basic human right which allows people to express their ideas freely without calling for or causing direct violence. This is the system that is used in the United States of America which is seen as a free democracy. It allows for the progress of humans and for new ideas to be shared. Yet, lack of freedom of speech is a serious issue, causing people to not live freely within a society. Everyone has the right to express their beliefs, even if these beliefs are sexist or racist. Although these ideas are bad, banning or regulating free speech to not allow people with these ideas to not be able to express their opinions would exclude them from their community.
Freedom of speech is essential for people to maintain their freedom. Once people’s speech starts getting restricted, it would be easier for the government to restrict even more rights of people. Freedom of speech is generally regulated within a community in order for people to not criticize the main ideas or policies of that community. This causes a problem for journalists as if they publish ideas that are banned, they can face many problems. In recent years, journalists in prison have been on the rise. Turkey has the biggest journalist prisoner population in the world who were sentenced to jail for criticizing the government. This allows governments to keep information away from their citizens. If people are free to disagree with policies or certain ideas, they can also bring up new ideas which can later lead to development. According to the yearly freedom index based on multiple factors with freedom of speech being one of the main factors, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands and Canada ranked on the top. These countries are seen as developed when it comes to their government, infrastructure and the quality of life. This is evident that freedom of speech is one of the reasons for development within a society as it allows for new and different ideas to be shared.
However, some people would say that everyone being able to say what they want would lead to some people expressing racist or sexist ideas. These ideas can have a negative impact on some people. Would not allowing these ideas to be shared freely be harmful to our society?
Allowing people to freely express their ideas, even if these ideas can be offensive, allows free discussions of these opinions. These discussions can lead to people being persuaded away from racist or sexist views, which would not be possible with the regulation of freedom of speech. According to a study done on college students in the US, 51% of students were okay with silencing speakers that they deemed offensive. This is 51% of students who would not respect the rights of other people in their community. We always talk about how in a free society everybody in the community should have a say on how the society should function. However, when we regulate free speech and not allow some people to express their ideas because of their beliefs, they are excluded from the society for having different ideas, even if these ideas represent offensive beliefs. How would you feel if you were not able to express your ideas because the government stated that your ideas were wrong? Excluded.
Lack of freedom of speech is becoming a big issue in many countries, especially with developing countries. We want equality, we want freedom and we all want our basic human rights. So, do we not also want freedom of speech? Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right that has to be preserved for the rest of history.
“Freedom of Speech.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2017. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/PC3010999011/OVIC?u=60iskl&sid=OVIC&xid=81a13719. Accessed 22 Mar. 2019.
Weinstein, James. “HATE SPEECH BANS, DEMOCRACY, AND POLITICAL LEGITIMACY.” Constitutional Commentary, Fall 2017, p. 527+. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A514177521/OVIC?u=60iskl&sid=OVIC&xid=9d40108e. Accessed 1 Apr. 2019.
“Freedom in the World Countries.” Freedom in the World Countries | Freedom House, Freedom House, 2019, freedomhouse.org/report/countries-world-freedom-2019?order=field_fiw_aggregate_score&sort=desc.
Lister, G. (2019). Free Speech and Access to Information: Key to Citizen Empowerment and Sustainable Development. [online] UNESCO. Available at: https://en.unesco.org/Free-Speech-Access-to-Information-Gwen-Lister [Accessed 3 Apr. 2019].
“Turkey Leads the World in Jailed Journalists.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 16 Jan. 2019, www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2019/01/16/turkey-leads-the-world-in-jailed-journalists.
Chen, Richard. “The Meaning of Free Speech.” Medium, Medium, 13 June 2018, medium.com/@rchen8/the-purpose-of-free-speech-304507f55c54.