What are the pros and cons of freedom of speech? Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of democracy. The fundamental right to be able to speak freely is written into the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the Bill of Rights in the US, and this “right” is there to allow each and every one of us to express our opinions, free from the threat of interference from authority.
People living in democratically governed countries largely take freedom of speech for granted: the press is allowed to print what they like and for the most part, we can say or print what we want about the government, authority figures, and anybody else we do not agree with.
But in some countries, freedom of speech is outlawed and the media is very much controlled by oppressive regimes intent on stamping out any inkling of a rebellion. So what are the pros and cons of freedom of speech and should we be allowed to have access to material that would previously have been censored?
What are the pros of freedom of speech?
1. Freedom of speech means we can say anything we like, no matter how contentious it might be, without fear of reprisal.
2. Freedom of expression is very important for the press and media as it allows a greater degree of political freedom, which is essential for a true democracy to function freely.
3. When freedom of speech is guaranteed, people can assemble for peaceful protests without any fear of danger of imprisonment, which is not exactly the case in countries that are ruled by dictators and oppressive regimes.
4. Freedom of speech and expression means people can learn from others who might be expressing an alternative point of view that has not previously been considered.
5. The public has a right to know things a government might prefer to “hush up”, so any attempt to curtail freedom of speech in the press and media would be a violation of our basic human rights.
What are the cons of freedom of speech?
1. Freedom of speech means we are largely able to say what we like about others, which can sometimes lead to untrue, hurtful, derogatory, or even inflammatory things being said, printed, or published on the Internet.
2. Freedom of speech can represent a security risk under certain circumstances. Take for example WikiLeaks, an icon for the whole concept of freedom of speech: some of the material published on the WikiLeaks website has often contained politically sensitive material, the exposure of which could have put various people in danger as a result.
3. Although freedom of speech in the west gives us the right to assemble for the purpose of making peaceful protests, it is not unusual for violent extremists to hijack supposedly peaceful protests for their own political agendas.
4. Free speech can also lead to unwelcome acts. For example, the spouting of far right political polemic can often be linked to hate crimes and insurrection.
5. In times of war, freedom of speech must be curtailed to some degree to prevent breeches of national security.