Freedom of Speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction.

Article 19 of the Human Rights Declaration (UDHR) also promises free speech, and many countries supposedly have constitutional law that protects free speech.

However, most countries also have restrictions on freedom of speech, most notably against hate speech.

The only country that gurantees unlimited free speech (in some sense), as far as I know, is the United States. Almost all other countries seem to have restrictions on free speech - based on hate speech etc. More details in this thread: Are there democratic countries that restrict offensive speech?

My question is the opposite - what countries have least restrictions on freedom of speech, apart from the US?

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    The US does not have unlimited free speech. Defamation is actionable, revealing state secrets is a crime, lying under oath is a crime, etc.
    – Caleth
    Commented Mar 19 at 9:26
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    "[guarantees] unlimited free speech (in some sense)": while the US may have fewer restrictions than many other countries, it's not unlimited: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_in_the_United_States Commented Mar 19 at 9:28
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    Can you explain 'unlimited free speech (in some sense), as far as I know…'? Otherwise, how is the wording of the Question not largely squished by the detailed exposition? Commented Mar 20 at 0:33

1 Answer 1


Such 'tops' will vary slightly according the criteria. See e.g. Freedom House's or V-Dem's "Freedom of expression index, 2022":

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TBH, I'm not sure the small differences in index values above 0.9 are all that important. (Yeah, V-Dem does not rank the US the first, contrary to what you expect.)

For the former (FH), I could not find a ready-made map that separated the freedom of expression from the rest of their freedom index, alas. (Perhaps someone else can contribute that.) FH probably ranks the US higher on expression alone because FH is US based. V-Dem in contrast is Sweden-based, so they probably don't consider anti-hate speech laws a significant issue. There used to be a separate FH freedom of the press report/index, but that was discontinued in 2017, it seems. Anyhow, while the methodology of that had separate sub-scores e.g. for legal, political, and economic environment [of press independence], that level of detail appears absent in the final report on a per-country basis.

The only country that gurantees unlimited free speech (in some sense), as far as I know, is the United States.

While people alive today might not remember or know, this isn't as much as a result of what the constitution says, but how it was interpreted. In the interwar period the courts judged that the "bad tendency test" was adequate, and it favored government-imposed restrictions quite a bit. Only in later times did that legal doctrine get replaced with one that elevated freedom of speech above other competing issues (by coming up with a "hierarchical ordering of constitutional rights").

Also, the subjective perception on the freedom of speech in their own country varies quite a bit (relative to those indexes):

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So, whether people consider hate speech as necessary for freedom, YMMV. Anyhow, on such polls, the US does rank highest (overall) when people are asked what kind of statement should be protected, but not uniformly in all categories (although it was pretty close to the top in most):

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The USCIRF does regularly rank countries by one of those categories: blasphemy laws (or lack thereof) and whether they were enforced recently.

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Also somewhat related (the history of) such laws in the US, on Wikipedia. Until the 1st Amendment started to be applied to states & local authorities (in the 20th century) those were not unheard of in the US either.

As for hate-speech in the EU, there were some "hold outs", e.g. in 2020 it was reported that:

The European Commission has started infringement proceedings against Estonia, since the state hasn't enacted criminal legislation against hate speech.

According to the text, the other country was apparently Romania. (Not clear if infringement procedure was started against Romania. Romania apparently complied in 2022. And apparently Estonia too in 2023.)

  • Somewhat related, about press freedom alone politics.stackexchange.com/questions/39963/… Commented Mar 19 at 9:33
  • Quite surprising that 60% of people in Poland say that calls for violent protest should be allowed. I wonder why Poland in particular is the outlier in this column?
    – kaya3
    Commented Mar 19 at 17:30
  • @kaya3: the Philippines wasn't that far behind. Commented Mar 19 at 17:33
  • @Dolphin613Motorboat I don't mean it's surprising that it's as high as 60% anywhere, I mean it's surprising that it's that high in Poland when it is, say, only 30% in the Palestinian territories.
    – kaya3
    Commented Mar 19 at 17:34
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    @kaya3 Solidarity? I understand the Poles often view the liberation of Eastern Europe as due to the Solidarity movement in Poland, They're the only nation I see on that list that have a historical reason to see a direct connection between protests and freedom. (I suspect if you just polled black people in the US, the support for violent protests would go up, for similar reasons.)
    – prosfilaes
    Commented Mar 19 at 19:56

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