The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1 adopted in 1948, provides, 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. Technically, as a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly rather than a treaty, it is not legally binding in its entirety on members of the UN. Furthermore, whilst some of its provisions are considered to form part of customary international law, there is dispute as to which. Freedom of speech is granted unambiguous protection in international law by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is binding on around 150 nations. In adopting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Australia and the Netherlands insisted on reservations to Article 19 insofar as it might be held to affect their systems of regulating and licensing broadcasting. The majority of African constitutions provide legal protection for freedom of speech. However, these rights are exercised inconsistently in practice.
1. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, provides, in Article 19,
The replacement of authoritarian regimes in Kenya and Ghana has substantially improved the situation in those countries. On the other hand, Eritrea allows no independent media and uses draft evasion as a pretext to crack down on any dissent, spoken or otherwise. One of the poorest and smallest nations in Africa, Eritrea is now the largest prison for journalists; since 2001, fourteen journalists have been imprisoned in unknown places without a trial. Sudan, Libya, and Equatorial Guinea also have repressive laws and practices. In addition, many state radio stations (which are the primary source of news for illiterate people) are under tight control and programs, especially talk shows providing a forum to complain about the government, are often censored. Also countries like Somalia and Egypt provide legal protection for freedom of speech but it is not used publicly. South Africa is probably the most liberal in granting freedom of speech, however in light of South Africa's racial and discriminatory history, particularly the Apartheid era, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996 precludes expression that is tantamount to the advocacy of hatred based on some listed grounds. Freedom of speech and expression are both protected and limited by a section in the South African Bill of Rights, 2
2. South African Bill of Rights, chapters 2 of the Constitution. Section 16 makes the following provisions: Freedom of expression
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes- (a) Freedom of the press and other media;
(b) Freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;
(c) Freedom of artistic creativity; and
(d) Academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.
Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws, with the exception of obscenity, defamation, incitement to riot, and fighting words, as well as harassment, privileged communications, trade secrets, classified material, copyright, patents, military conduct, commercial speech such as advertising, and time, place and manner restrictions.3 Criticism of the government and advocacy of unpopular ideas that people may find distasteful or against public policy, such as racism, sexism, and other hate speech are almost always permitted. There are exceptions to these general protections, including the Miller test for obscenity, child pornography laws, speech that incites imminent lawless action, and regulation of commercial speech such as advertising.
3. First Amendment to...