Orchestrated Repression And The Surveillance State: Which Country Has The Most Freedom Of Speech?
What is the sustained impact of surveillance capitalism on our freedoms and liberties, and namely on our right to freedom of speech?
The Internet once heralded the promise of absolute and unparalleled freedom that existed outside the control of governments, or capital or politics but today corporations, governments and digital platforms work in tandem to hasten the commodification of our personal data. From insidiously intelligent algorithms to data farms to seemingly innocuous hyper-personalized advertising — everything we do online has become a surveillance asset, and therefore, capital.
The war over our digital rights is only beginning.
Surveilling citizens through technology, violently suppressing protests and prosecuting journalists — “strongman” regimes all over the world are using what they know about we do online to silence dissenting voices and cement their absolute political power.
Today, what once was old is new again. Government surveillance is making headlines again. We cannot afford to overlook the implications of this non-observance of electronic privacy for freedom of speech and expression; not in the least because privacy and free speech are inextricably linked to one another.
Freedom of expression and privacy are the cornerstone of any democratic society. We must do all we can to protect them. Here are the seven countries with absolute freedom of speech as compiled and published by the freedom of press index.
Countries With Freedom Of Speech In Their Constitutions:
Which country has the most freedom of speech?
Finland, without a doubt. Finland has consistently been ranked in the the Press Freedom Index as the country with the best freedom of expression laws in, first in 2002–2006, 2009–2010, and again in 2012–2014. Freedom of expression is enshrined within the constitution, which mandates that everyone has freedom of expression, that is the right to express, circulate and access information and opinions with government documents and archives freely available to all citizens. You can even look up your neighbour’s salary, if you’re so inclined. Notably, it’s the only country in the world in which access to internet is a legally recognized right. In addition, citizens’ right to protest is protected by law: demonstrations or other public assemblies require no permission from the police or other authorities.
Defamation is only a criminal offence if the affected party is a citizen at large: you cannot defame a corporation unless it falls under competition legislation.
Denmark received a joint first place in the Worldwide Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders in 2004, 2005 and 2009 and has consistently placed amongst the top ten since 2011.
Denmark has freedom of speech written into its constitution, the Grundloven which mandates that citizens are free to publish their ideas in print, writing, in speech, all subject to their being held accountable in a court of law. Censorship and other programs of suppression are illegal. As stipulated by Danish Penal Code § 266 hate speech is banned and punishable by law.
No wonder Denmark is one of the happiest countries on the planet. You can’t have hygge without freedom of expression.
Censorship was abolished in Norway when it was under Danish rule in 1770 — that’s 250 years of commitment to freedom of expression, longer than some countries have existed. Once it achieved independence in the 1800s, Norway drafted its constitution in the likeness of that of its neighbor, longtime Press Index sweetheart, Denmark. Article 100 of the constitution declares: “Everyone shall be free to speak his mind frankly on the administration of the State and on any other subject whatsoever,” defamation, hate-speech and deliberate contempt of religion notwithstanding.
Did you know that Sweden’s where the first press freedom law was introduced, almost 250 years ago, in 1776? It was among the first ever countries with freedom of speech in their constitutions. Every Swede’s right to freedom of expression is ratified in Sweden’s constitution, and every citizen is guaranteed the right to communicate any and all information to authors alongside members of the press and there can be no “prior scrutiny” by a public authority or other public body of work intended for publication or release to the public. Swedish citizens also have the right to access information on any subject whatsoever for any such publication, and Sweden’s governmental records are public!
It’s small wonder the country is recognized worldover for its centuries long commitment to governmental transparency and individual freedoms.
By international standards, the Dutch remain staunchly committed to freedom of speech! However, disturbing trends have begun to manifest as of late, including an increased number of attacks on journalists and other members of the press. Extremist populist politicians make every attempt to undercut the legitimacy of the country’s established press whenever possible.
Freedom of expression in the Netherlands is enshrined in article 7 of the Dutch Constitution which generally protects nearly every sort of expression barring defamation, slander, and insult; lèse-majesté and incitement to racial or religious discrimination.
Jamaica is one of the only Caribbean nations to have secured a spot amongst the top ten on the index! Whilst it may not be among the countries with absolute freedom of speech, the constitution mandates freedom of expression for each individual citizen as well as the press, and the government has, with notably few exceptions, protected this right.
Jamaica recently decriminalized defamation in 2013!
7. Costa Rica
This small Latin American country is a welcome exception in a region afflicted by violent crime, corruption and increasing violence against the press, Costa Rica’s record of protecting human rights and freedom of expression is made all the more remarkable for how unusual it is.
Actions And Solutions: To Conclude
We live in an increasingly globalized world characterized by increasing amounts of fear and anger. Headlines proclaim the news of some fresh, new hell every day. It’s time like this that it becomes more and more apparent that we need each other if we’ve any hope of saving the only world we’ve got.
Your voice matters because it’s yours. You have the right to speak your mind, access information and demand better from your government. You have the right to disagree with the state, and to express your opinions without fear.
It starts with you.