Most Americans take it for granted that they have a variety of freedoms that are guaranteed to them by the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. One of the most basic freedoms is the freedom of speech and expression. In the current time of social media, Americans can essentially post what they want without fear of being persecuted or punishment. However, that is not the case with a lot of foreign countries.
While western countries generally guarantee some kind of freedom of speech, many others either provide limited freedom or even none at all. One such country that I will be getting into more detail with is China.
According to the Chinese Constitution, "Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” Ironically, that is not the case at all. In fact, China is very strict in what is being printed and said in the media.
Since China is a communist nation, many leaders there believe that freedom of speech should be exercised if the whole of society benefits and not just the individual. This contributes to the fact that the Chinese government, unlike the U.S., strictly controls what is being published and said in the media.
The first way that the Chinese government regulates the media is that it has a Central Propaganda Department, and its job is to monitor all forms of media. According to a Freedom House Special Report called “Speak No Evil-Mass Media Control in Contemporary China, “The Chinese Communist Party exerts near complete control over the country’s 358 television stations and 2,119 newspapers—the primary media available to more than one billion Chinese citizens.”
Along with that, journalists and reporters are often required to attend so-called “ideological training sessions” where they have to demonstrate their loyalty to the Communist Party and demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the Party’s ideals and nation’s current laws. Many times, the heads of newspapers, magazines, or TV programs are often appointed by Communist politicians in power. This way, the government can stringently control the information that is circulating in the media and prevent any anti-government or anti-Communist ideas from spreading.
Considering that China’s Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech, it is interesting to see how completely opposite China’s policies are in reality. However, the immense use of the internet and social media has created a new challenge for the government since it is hard to regulate such a vast source of information.
In response to the internet, China has blocked some websites that are often tied to uprisings or opposition to the government. More recently, according to the International Herald Tribune, “The Great Firewall of China” has blocked access to popular sites, like Youtube Twitter, and Facebook, as well as blocking searches of “politically sensitive” words.
These stringent policies have caused many riots and protests. In fact, in an article in the Voice of America, there was a free speech protest in southern China this past January, where many people, including journalists, criticized the government’s censorship of the media. However, despite such demonstrations, the Chinese government is not going to consider changing its censorship policies right now, but as more and more protests hit the streets and the internet, they might have to rethink their thoughts on free speech.
Clearly, seeing China’s strict policies may make you reevaluate how important all the basic freedoms are in the U.S.A. Because of the freedom of speech, expression, and press, we can essentially speak our minds and voice our opinions.
While many people do not have the right to say what they want in their respective countries, you do in this country. This should also make you more responsible to how and what you voice your opinion on. Just saying anything and everything that’s on your mind isn’t useful to yourself or to American society. I encourage all you teenagers to be vocal on important issues, and use the freedom of speech to raise awareness on certain problems and try to incite change.
Visual: CBS. “Fight for Free Speech in China.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube, 8 Oct. 2010. Web. 7 Feb. 2013.
Esarey, Ashley. Freedom at Issue. Rep. Freedom House, Feb. 2006. Web. 7 Feb. 2013. .
"China Free Speech Protests Spread Online." Voice of America. Voice of America, 8 Jan. 2013. Web. 07 Feb. 2013. .
Chu, Ruven. "Communism and Computer Ethics." Communism: Censorship and Freedom of S Speech. N.p., 2009. Web. 07 Feb. 2013. .
McDonald, Mark. "Adding More Bricks to the Great Firewall of China." International Herald Tribune. New York Times, 23 Dec. 2012. Web. 07 Feb. 2013. .