Does Freedom Of Speech Exist Anymore?

It is quite pleasant, in a macabre sort of way, to be able to look the at the goings on in Europe and for once not feel that the UK are the centre of the storm, due to the latest drama in the ongoing Brexit soap opera. Due to this, I have been following the struggles of the Catalonian referendum, declaration of independence and subsequent fall out with a great deal of interest. While I'm merely an onlooker of the whole situation, not embedded in history and politics of the different positions, I feel the times we live in mean that I, as much as anyone, have the right to give an opinion. Those supporting the Catalan independence movement are very vocal about how Spain has denied freedom of speech by their political and constitutional actions. This has been backed up by officials from the UN Human Rights Council and has, as such, in my superficial eyes, a degree of validity above the political tensions of the struggle. This leads me to think of another unofficial constitution - Hollywood. Over the last few weeks we have witnessed the fallout from a myriad of sexual abuse claims which have put the spotlight on many powerful men who have misused their positions to assault and to harm. The horrifying allegations have also been followed by many more from the wider entertainment world, with a definite undercurrent that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Stepping aside from the actual repugnance bought about by the allegations and the mechanist of how Hollywood has historically operated, my thoughts have turned to why it has devastatingly taken so long for people to come forward? I firmly believe that it has taken this long for not only those directly affected by these perpetrators, but also those in the industry who perhaps have known about such goings on, to come forward because freedom of speech doesn't truly exist. Powerful institutions, governments and movements create a fear culture around speaking out and as such, people, usually women, feel they have to stay quiet in order to stay safe. Freedom of speech has been suppressed. This suppression has not been caused between nation states and their political differences, but rather within a country (or society) where freedom of speech is an assumed given for an individual. It is this level of assumption which has allowed the problem to slip through the gaps, and so it has festered to produce the situation we have today. When there is a fear culture surrounding the right to speak the truth, or your personal opinion, then freedom of speech does not truly exist. Terrifyingly, it is not a political dictatorship suppressing the right to speak, but is becoming apparent in silos such as Hollywood, or Catalonia, that while everyone supposedly has the equal right to speak, often the most important voices go against the status quo and as such are silenced. This is a conversation that I seem to be involved in more and more, as I am sadly seeing that business sectors and companies have become so powerful that their influence is able to create unwritten laws that can override the rules or even the foundations that underpin the fundamental values of Western society. The Hollywood allegations have been followed by the ever more sickening revelations of the goings-on in UK politics and the corruption of power which again, appears to be just the tip of the iceberg. Following the argument laid out above, we are living in a world which ostensibly tries to protect and advocate democratic values and freedom of speech, but in actuality promotes a culture which suppresses the right of individuals to speak out as they are threatened (maybe not overtly) and pressured into a position where voicing a cause will result in personal struggles, a loss of career and unfavourable prospects. While I can't do justice to the illegitimacy of these goings on, or to the unjust nature of powerful and ingrained institutions like global governments and Hollywood, I can stand forward and fight for our right to speak freely. A request that shouldn't be controversial and one that should never be suppressed. George Orwell said, "if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear". At a time when 'fake news' and 'election meddling' through social media and technology is at the forefront of conversations, we should be more concerned than ever that freedom of speech is being suppressed by countries, politicians, business leaders and individuals. I conclude with a rallying cry that if the freedom of speech is being challenged and ridden roughshod over from all angles then we, as individuals, and as communities, need to champion those who do speak out and offer them a safe space to voice their opinion. This democratic world we live in needs to be cherished, revered and protected now more than ever.