Knowledge is Power

"In a time of universal deciet, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

Freedom of Speech

by Scott Hughes

The idea of freedom of speech refers to the ability of people to express themselves without censorship. Most people regard freedom of speech as an essential part of modern liberal democracies. International law guarantees freedom of speech through several human rights instruments, namely under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Despite the international regard for freedom of speech, people all over the world have their freedom of speech taken away. All governments in the world routinely infringe on people's freedom of speech. For example, all over the world protesters have taped police beating them even when the protesters did nothing but express themselves on public property. In another example, the United States government famously infringed on its citizens freedom of speech with programs such as COINTELPRO, which involved such methods as framing non-violent political dissidents.

Even where people do have freedom of speech, that does not entail that others will listen or hear them. Money speaks louder than words. While freedom of speech attempts to assist in the distribution of information, an essential part of a free and fair, mega-corporations and governments can control the flow of information by monopolizing the major media outlets. In other words, the powers that be can manipulate the flow of information without taking away people's freedom to speak.

Worse yet, people often fail to exercise their freedom of speech. Many people prefer to watch TV sitcoms and talk about Britney Spears, than they would like to express themselves and exchange important social and political information and ideas.

Some legal restrictions involving speech may seem like limitation of freedom of speech even when they do not limit freedom. Freedom of speech does not include the right to commit other criminal activity that can involve speech. For example, assaulting someone verbally does not fall under the freedom of speech. Another common example consists of yelling fire in a crowded theater. Though one uses speech to commit such deeds, the crime exists not in the speech, but in the results. According, freedom of speech often does not give a person the right to make false statements, such as slander, libel, or otherwise using dishonesty to purposefully cause harm to someone. Simply put, freedom of speech only protects your right to speak; it does not protect your right to commit other deeds that you may use speech or expression to do.

The Freedom Flyers uses the concept of freedom of speech and its related ideas as the foundation of the movement. Other phrases for freedom of speech include free speech, freedom of expression, and free expression.

I hope this article answered all of your questions about freedom of speech. If you have any remaining questions, of if you have any comments or suggestions, please post them in our Activism Forums.

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© 2007, Scott Hughes. All rights reserved.

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