The Practice of Free Speech: America versus China

Edit: An earlier version of this post did not include graphs and relevant details of the personal poll I conducted. That has since been changed. 

A free and robust media is deeply integrated into our everyday life; something that is true in most, if not all Western societies. Freedom of expression is seemingly an obvious right every citizen is entitled to, but it is in fact a foreign sentiment in many countries like North Korea and Cuba. In nations like the United States, a censored press is unconstitutional but nations like China, censorship is not only blatant but also accepted. This highlights a stark contrast in media institutions between two countries and poses interesting ethical dilemmas. For the purposes of this post, it’ll specifically compare the practice of free speech between United States and China, exploring the right to expression (or lack of) and whether or not this is a journalistic or a basic universal privilege.

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Advancing the Story: The deadly question

A few weeks ago, The Atlantic published a lengthy article that explored the death penalty in Texas and how state jurors “must first decide if the person will be a future danger” before someone could be sentenced to death. Texas jurors must answer the question “whether there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society.” In other words, the law is asking its citizen to predict behavior.

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When the government says shhh to the media

A free and robust media is deeply integrated into our everyday lives; something that is true in most, if not all, Western societies. However, when we travel across the globe to countries like China, that sentiment is suddenly a foreign one.

It’s difficult to nail down a single case study that illustrates exactly how the Chinese government censors its media. Instead, it’s better illustrated through a handful of examples. For starters, access to Western social media platforms are blocked. Yes, Google included. Of course there are alternatives that people use, one being Weibo — the equivalent to Twitter — but you can forget about posting what you had for lunch that day on Instagram or sharing the awesome concert you’re at on Snapchat. But even then, the government is closely monitoring the forums that are allowed.
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