What is freedom of speech?

   Freedom of speech is the right of a person to express his opinions on all subjects without fear of punishment or reprisal. Freedom of speech is closely related to other civil liberties, such as freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. It is a basic concept of a free society and is sometimes explicitly written into national constitutions, as it is in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man. In other countries, freedom of speech, although largely unprotected by formal written guarantees, is supported by the common law of the land, as in Great Britain and Canada. Freedom of speech operates best in a democratic society, where the people have the regular opportunity to discuss and make choices between opposing policies and can change their leaders by means of the vote. On the private level, freedom of speech guarantees the right of an individual to disagree with his neighbor on vital issues of the day without fear of being punished.