Freedom of speech is a very important and universally recognized civil right that is founded on the premise that all people have the liberty to express their ideas and opinions in the form of speech provided it is done within the confines of what is lawful. Freedom of speech has been a crucial ingredient in the development of a just and fair society that is free from all forms of subjugation. Its importance in human affairs especially in the areas of social interactions, societal organization, and self-conduct has grown over time to the point that it now occupies the center stage in the society most notably in the socio-political sphere.
Freedom of speech is an indispensable aspect of life in the society
Freedom of speech is of great significance to the society as can be seen from the fact that the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 states in article 19 that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” (United Nations).
Indeed, it is through speech that people exchange vital information, inquire into and critically evaluate ideas, debate on choices, and express thoughts about any subject matter. Freedom of speech allows the society to moderate its affairs including governance, justice, equity, and progress therefore to curtail this freedom essentially means putting a society on its way back to the stone age. Freedom of speech has been a key factor in the history of human liberty and the struggle against discrimination all over the world with examples such as the fight against slavery, racial discrimination, and women’s rights movements.
Freedom of speech is what enables democracy to develop in any nation. The basis of democracy is that the people have the ultimate political authority, and anyone has the right not to be bound by decisions or ideas of the majority. If common ideas are not subjected to discussion by allowing everyone to express their opinions, then there is the risk that even falsehood will be imposed upon society as truth. “On an individual level, speech is a means of participation, the vehicle through which individuals debate the issues of the day, cast their votes, and actively join in the processes of decision-making that shape the polity.”(Milovanovich, 2011)
Societies and organizations that have attempted to repress freedom of speech have ended up stifling progress or disintegrating all together as there is no way of ensuring feedback and positive criticism of the values and principles upon which the society is founded. The now extinct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics before its demise actively resisted freedom of speech, one of the factors that led to its downfall.
Objections to freedom of speech often also arise when speech is about opinions that are not popular with certain sections of society, most notably in political and religious domains. For instance, one individual’s opinion may be considered as blasphemy by another, but this should not be used as grounds for a denial of the right to free speech because all ideas and opinions have the propensity to tussle until the truth overcomes false opinions.
Freedom of speech is, therefore, an essential civil right for all people and must not be suppressed if society is to continue on the path of progress, proper governance, and justice, but, on the other hand, this right must also be exercised prudently, within the law and without infringing on other human rights.