Free speech is something that we often take for granted. It is also something that is widely debated and often controlled. There are many parts of the world where free speech isn’t even something that people have. When words become controlled, it is a slippery slope to the controlling of other rights. This is what makes the right to free speech something that cannot be taken for granted, and when that right is imposed upon, it should also be taken seriously.
Free Speech Defined
The idea of free speech is often actually misunderstood. People seem to think it means they can say whatever they want and nobody will object. That is interesting because the whole idea behind free speech is to exchange ideas and open dialogues, so free speech isn’t being able to say anything without repercussions. Free speech is the ability to express your own thoughts and ideas while also respecting that others may do the same.
Many countries have laws regarding free speech. In the U.S., it is a fundamental right granted by the constitution. The United Nations also has a stance on free speech. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes a section on free speech and was signed by member countries. It offers protection to the right to enjoy the freedom to speak and share ideas.
In other countries, though, this freedom doesn’t exist. There are terrible penalties for saying certain things, and people can be silenced, especially on topics the government doesn’t want to have discussed.
Why It Is Important
Understanding what free speech is, though, isn’t enough. It is equally important to understand why the freedom of speech is so important. One of the main reasons is based on the main idea of sharing information and ideas. Being able to speak freely enables people to share and gain knowledge. It encourages free thinking, innovation, and change. It is the driving force behind many movements towards better treatment of people and overall human rights.
It is also a cornerstone of freedom in general. As human rights advocates, like Thor Halvorssen, have demonstrated, the concept of human rights is based on democracy. It is when each person has the ability and right to actively participate in their government. It is about being able to express opinions and make changes when things are not right. Without free speech, the masses are silenced. They are unable to speak out and spark change. They can’t let others know what is happening within their country or their social group. They don’t have the ability to make people aware of what is happening to them. This lets a ruling body or dictator take complete control.
How It Can Be Denied
Free speech can be denied in many ways, such as with laws, gag orders, censorship, and bans. How the right in denied often really depends on the goal of whoever is trying to do it. For example, many consider censorship of books, movies, television and music to be a denial of free speech. However, most often, the driving force behind censorship is to protect children from being exposed to words, ideas, and images that are adult in nature. Most people accept this.
On the other hand, most often when people are being denied free speech, the goal is more sinister. Those who are trying to deny the right want to silence the person and prevent them from sharing information or ideas. Often the person behind this denial of rights is trying to protect him or herself from being exposed in some way. For example, a dictator may limit the freedom of speech so citizens can’t tell others about harsh or cruel punishment that he or she is passing down.
Effects When Free Speech Is Forbidden
When the freedom of speech is restricted, it can lead to oppression, human rights violations, and other more serious issues. In places where there is no right to speak freely, people often live in terrible conditions under the thumb of ruthless dictators. When people can’t speak their minds and share ideas, it leads to a lack of innovation and forward momentum. It creates a society that becomes very dependent on government or leaders. Most often it leads to poverty and suffering.
It may be difficult to understand exactly how a lack of freedom of speech can lead to such horrible things, but it is all really based around the idea that we need communication to institute change and growth in a society. If people never shared ideas or opinions, we’d become stuck. After a while, we would be less productive and couldn’t keep up with other countries who were moving forward.
It’s very easy to think that limited free speech is no big deal. However, if you pay attention to the areas in the world where this isn’t a right, you can more easily understand how important it is. Free speech isn’t just about being able to say what you want. It is about being able to keep a society thriving and alive.