Countries With Freedom of Speech 2022

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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.

Freedom of expression in 165 countries

The Global State of Democracy Indices is a database, maintained by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, which tracks 116 indicators related to democratic freedom in 165 countries. The GSDI includes eight indicators centered around free expression, including whether the government censors the media, whether the expression of one's personal culture is repressed, and whether both men and women feel comfortable expressing themselves in public. These metrics are then combined into a single value ranging from a low of 0.00 to a high of 1.00. The top 30 scores from 2020 make up the list below, and the full scoresheet appears in the table further down this page.

Top 30 Countries with the Most Freedom of Speech/Expression (GSDI 2020):

  1. Denmark — .95
  2. Belgium — .87
  3. Finland, Switzerland, Uruguay — .86
  4. New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden — .85
  5. France — .84
  6. Canada, Estonia — .83
  7. Argentina, Austria, Ireland, Norway — .82
  8. Italy — .80
  9. Australia, Germany, Jamaica, United Kingdom — .79
  10. Czechia, Iceland — .78
  11. Latvia, Netherlands, Slovakia — .77
  12. Costa Rica, Barbados — .75
  13. Luxembourg, Peru, United States — .74

Free speech in the United States

Although the above study makes clear that freedom of expression in America has room to improve, Americans are among the world's most supportive citizens with regard to free speech—even if it criticizes the government or supports an unpopular opinion—freedom of the press, and the right to use the internet without government censorship. Freedom of speech is a fundamental principle in the U.S., protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law… abridging freedom of speech.”

In the U.S., freedom of speech includes the right to engage in symbolic speech, to use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages, to advertise commercial products and professional services (with some restrictions), and the right to not speak (specifically, the right to not salute the flag) if one so desires. Americans are also more tolerant of offensive speech than people in most other nations.

This attitude is displayed in the results of two recent studies that addressed the value and level of support people place on free expression. The first was a 38-nation Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2015, which asked participants in 38 countries a series of eight questions pertaining to freedom of expression, with answers ranging from 0 (least support) to 8 (most support). The United States posted the highest median score at 5.73. The second study was conducted in 2021 by judicial think-tank Justitia in collaboration with Columbia University in New York, U.S.A. and Aarhus University, Denmark. The United States placed third, with a score of 78 (out of a possible 100), closely following Norway (80) and Denmark (79).

Top 10 Countries Whose Citizens Value Free Speech the Most

Rank Justitia 2021 (0-100) Pew 2015 (0-8)
1 Norway — 80 United States — 5.73
2 Denmark — 79 Poland — 5.66
3 United States — 878 Spain — 5.62
4 Sweden — 78 Mexico — 5.42
5 Hungary — 75 Venezuela — 5.17
6 United Kingdom — 74 Canada — 5.08
7 Venezuela — 74 Australia — 4.94
8 Spain — 73 Argentina — 4.83
9 Japan — 71 South Africa — 4.80
10 Argentina — 70 United Kingdom — 4.78

Free speech around the world

In general, the 2015 Pew survey revealed that countries in the Western Hemisphere are more tolerant than countries in the Eastern Hemisphere, with Mexico (5.42) and Canada (5.08) ranking fourth and sixth, respectively. Poland ranked as the second-most tolerant with a median score of 5.66, followed by Spain at 5.62. The lowest support for free expression among the countries surveyed came from Senegal (2.06), Jordan (2.53), and Pakistan (2.78).

A broader study of democracy as a whole conducted by Pew Research in 2019 included a question about whether respondents felt their right to free speech was secure and protected. Perhaps surprisingly, only 73% of respondents in the United States felt that free speech was properly protected. This placed the U.S. below several other countries, including Canada at 79%, the Netherlands at 84%, and Indonesia, which scored a survey-leading 86%.

The limits (and oppression) of free speech

Freedom of speech does have restrictions. These include, but are not limited to: libel, slander, incitement, copyright violation, trade secrets, and perjury. A person may not incite action that would harm others, such as shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. A person may not make or distribute obscene materials, and students may not make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event. Threats, racist speech, and other ethnically or religiously intolerant statements are also widely frowned upon and are legally actionable in some countries and situations.

While many nations acknowledge freedom of speech as a fundamental right and allow their people to freely voice their opinions and ideas, other nations are much more restrictive. Some of the most censored nations globally are North Korea, Burma, Turkmenistan, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Eritrea, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Syria, and Belarus. Citizens of these countries are virtually isolated by authoritarian rulers who see open access to information as a threat to their rule. The media is either state-controlled or silenced, the internet is filtered, and highly censored and restrictive laws are used—often in tandem with fear and intimidation—to prevent the spread of ideas and information.

Countries With Freedom of Speech 2022

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Countries With Freedom of Speech 2022

Country Freedom of Expression Score 2020 Free Speech Index 2021 Free Expression Index 2015 Free Speech Protection 2019 2022 Population
Denmark0.95790.00%5,834,950
Belgium0.870.00%11,668,278
Switzerland0.860.00%8,773,637
Finland0.860.00%5,554,960
Uruguay0.860.00%3,496,016
Sweden0.857880.00%10,218,971
Portugal0.850.00%10,140,570
New Zealand0.850.00%4,898,203
France0.84664.7271.00%65,584,518
Canada0.835.0879.00%38,388,419
Estonia0.830.00%1,321,910
Argentina0.82704.8344.00%46,010,234
Austria0.820.00%9,066,710
Norway0.82800.00%5,511,370
Ireland0.820.00%5,020,199
Italy0.84.6943.00%60,262,770
Germany0.79664.3477.00%83,883,596
United Kingdom0.79744.7867.00%68,497,907
Australia0.79694.9474.00%26,068,792
Jamaica0.790.00%2,985,094
Czech Republic0.78680.00%10,736,784
Iceland0.780.00%345,393
Netherlands0.7784.00%17,211,447
Slovakia0.770.00%5,460,193
Latvia0.770.00%1,848,837
Costa Rica0.760.00%5,182,354
Barbados0.750.00%288,023
United States0.74785.7373.00%334,805,269
Peru0.744.630.00%33,684,208
Luxembourg0.740.00%642,371
Spain0.73735.6248.00%46,719,142
Chile0.734.580.00%19,250,195
Taiwan0.72660.00%23,888,595
Ecuador0.720.00%18,113,361
South Korea0.71683.8371.00%51,329,899
Dominican Republic0.710.00%11,056,370
Senegal0.72.060.00%17,653,671
Lithuania0.70.00%2,661,708
Japan0.69713.2762.00%125,584,838
Israel0.69634.0268.00%8,922,892
Mongolia0.690.00%3,378,078
Cyprus0.690.00%1,223,387
Ghana0.683.730.00%32,395,450
Greece0.6859.00%10,316,637
Liberia0.680.00%5,305,117
Georgia0.680.00%3,968,738
Trinidad And Tobago0.670.00%1,406,585
Burkina Faso0.662.940.00%22,102,838
Romania0.660.00%19,031,335
Cape Verde0.660.00%567,678
Nigeria0.65453.5151.00%216,746,934
Panama0.650.00%4,446,964
Armenia0.650.00%2,971,966
Namibia0.650.00%2,633,874
Gambia0.650.00%2,558,482
Solomon Islands0.650.00%721,159
Tunisia0.644370.00%12,046,656
Botswana0.640.00%2,441,162
South Africa0.63584.854.00%60,756,135
Kenya0.63424.0458.00%56,215,221
Niger0.630.00%26,083,660
Malawi0.620.00%20,180,839
Paraguay0.620.00%7,305,843
North Macedonia0.620.00%2,081,304
Mauritius0.620.00%1,274,727
Sierra Leone0.610.00%8,306,436
Croatia0.610.00%4,059,286
Moldova0.610.00%4,013,171
Timor Leste0.610.00%1,369,429
Nepal0.590.00%30,225,582
Papua New Guinea0.590.00%9,292,169
Gabon0.590.00%2,331,533
Mexico0.58655.4251.00%131,562,772
Poland0.58665.6657.00%37,739,785
Mali0.580.00%21,473,764
Haiti0.580.00%11,680,283
Honduras0.580.00%10,221,247
Lesotho0.580.00%2,175,699
Ukraine0.572.850.00%43,192,122
Guatemala0.570.00%18,584,039
Togo0.570.00%8,680,837
Bulgaria0.570.00%6,844,597
Guinea Bissau0.570.00%2,063,367
Brazil0.56614.4842.00%215,353,593
Slovenia0.560.00%2,078,034
Central African Republic0.550.00%5,016,678
Afghanistan0.540.00%40,754,388
Hungary0.547549.00%9,606,259
Kyrgyzstan0.540.00%6,728,271
Mauritania0.540.00%4,901,981
Albania0.540.00%2,866,374
Montenegro0.540.00%627,950
Indonesia0.53453.4686.00%279,134,505
Myanmar0.530.00%55,227,143
India0.51483.6858.00%1,406,631,776
Ethiopia0.510.00%120,812,698
Sudan0.510.00%45,992,020
Morocco0.510.00%37,772,756
Madagascar0.510.00%29,178,077
Lebanon0.51543.160.00%6,684,849
DR Congo0.50.00%95,240,792
Colombia0.50.00%51,512,762
Ivory Coast0.50.00%27,742,298
Sri Lanka0.50.00%21,575,842
Bolivia0.50.00%11,992,656
Pakistan0.49382.780.00%229,488,994
Zambia0.490.00%19,470,234
Guinea0.490.00%13,865,691
Benin0.490.00%12,784,726
Libya0.490.00%7,040,745
Palestine0.493.420.00%5,345,541
Malaysia0.48440.00%33,181,072
Philippines0.46564.680.00%112,508,994
Iraq0.460.00%42,164,965
Angola0.460.00%35,027,343
Mozambique0.460.00%33,089,461
Zimbabwe0.460.00%15,331,428
El Salvador0.460.00%6,550,389
Bosnia And Herzegovina0.460.00%3,249,317
Uganda0.443.470.00%48,432,863
Somalia0.440.00%16,841,795
Jordan0.442.530.00%10,300,869
Kuwait0.440.00%4,380,326
Fiji0.440.00%909,466
Chad0.430.00%17,413,580
Tanzania0.414.380.00%63,298,550
Algeria0.410.00%45,350,148
Uzbekistan0.410.00%34,382,084
Cameroon0.410.00%27,911,548
Serbia0.410.00%8,653,016
Russia0.4503.3457.00%145,805,947
Venezuela0.4745.170.00%29,266,991
Bangladesh0.390.00%167,885,689
Singapore0.390.00%5,943,546
Oman0.380.00%5,323,993
Iran0.370.00%86,022,837
Thailand0.370.00%70,078,203
Kazakhstan0.370.00%19,205,043
Azerbaijan0.370.00%10,300,205
Vietnam0.352.960.00%98,953,541
Cambodia0.350.00%17,168,639
United Arab Emirates0.330.00%10,081,785
Qatar0.330.00%2,979,915
Rwanda0.320.00%13,600,464
Republic of the Congo0.320.00%5,797,805
Equatorial Guinea0.320.00%1,496,662
Nicaragua0.310.00%6,779,100
Eswatini0.310.00%1,184,817
Egypt0.3410.00%106,156,692
South Sudan0.30.00%11,618,511
Turkey0.29473.280.00%85,561,976
Tajikistan0.290.00%9,957,464
Yemen0.280.00%31,154,867
Burundi0.280.00%12,624,840
Bahrain0.270.00%1,783,983
Saudi Arabia0.260.00%35,844,909
Cuba0.250.00%11,305,652
Belarus0.250.00%9,432,800
China0.240.00%1,448,471,400
Turkmenistan0.230.00%6,201,943
Laos0.220.00%7,481,023
Eritrea0.180.00%3,662,244
Syria0.160.00%19,364,809
North Korea0.060.00%25,990,679

Countries With Freedom of Speech 2022

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