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Freedom of Speech in repressive regimes

Enrico Bertuccioli - Italy

Freedom of speech is the right for an individual or community to express any opinions without censorship or restraint and without fear of retaliation or legal sanction. Despite its name, freedom of speech is not specifically limited to verbal communication—rather, it also includes other forms of expression, such as written communication, social media posts (Facebook, TikTok, YouTube), the arts (photography, stage plays, musical performances, painting, dance), personal actions (political protests, flag burning), and so on. To reflect this broader definition, freedom of speech is often referred to as freedom of expression.

Freedom of speech is a right preserved in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and formally granted by the laws of most nations. In practice, however, some countries protect free speech, some deprioritize it, and some outright suppress it. Freedom of speech is protected in many of the freest countries in the world but is often restricted in totalitarian countries, communist countries, fascist countries, and dictatorships. Free speech can also be taken too far. An ongoing debate exists about where to draw the line between free expression and offensive, threatening, or harmful content. Particularly in the age of social media, when freedom of speech can be viewed as permission to spread damaging misinformation, bully others, and promote hate and intolerance, concerns have arisen over whether free speech can sometimes cause more harm than good.

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