Political Suppression of Free Speech

Political suppression of free speech inhibits democracy; it is a sign of a government that doesn’t want to be criticised or held to account.

Politicians can try to reduce the public pressure on them by trying to shut down debate and impose their own narratives for the public to believe.  There are several ways of doing this:

●  Some electoral systems can effectively suppress minority voters, especially if the constituency boundaries have been gerrymandered (

●  Groups of people can be prevented from voting, as in Carol Anderson’s article describing that issue in some American States: Voting while black: the racial injustice that harms our democracy.

●  Censorship is a technique for political suppression of free speech, as in the Soviet Union.  A BBC article, The writers who defied Soviet censors, described how publishers tried to evade the restrictions.

●  A government can control major media outlets, as described by the History Learning Site on Newspapers in Nazi Germany.

●  It can shut down media outlets whose views it disagrees with, as President Erdoğan has done.  It was reported in 2016 that: Turkey Renews Crackdown by Closing Media, Firing Thousands.

●  It can restrict Internet access, as China has done.  For example, Quartz published an article 24 January 2017 that was entitled An initiative to “clean up” China’s internet will make it even harder to jump the Great Firewall.

●  It can try to regulate what is published on Internet social media, as reviewed earlier (

●  It can exclude non-preferred media outlets from press briefings, as did Donald Trump in February 2017: White House bans certain news media from briefing:

“The BBC, CNN, the New York Times and others were excluded from an audience with Press Secretary Sean Spicer, with no reason given.”

●  It can murder journalists who express critical views, as in a famous case reported in October 2018: Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi died in Istanbul consulateThe Washington Post published his last (posthumous) article, Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression, which clearly shows why the repressive Saudi regime considered him to be a threat.

●  It can simply fail to tell people what is going on.  For example, it was reported that: Judge slams Michael Gove’s office as openDemocracy wins transparency court case.  “In one instance, the Cabinet Office unit instructed the Treasury to withhold information from infected blood campaigner Jason Evans, whose father died after being given blood contaminated with HIV.”

All these examples of the political suppression of free speech reduced the legitimacy of the politicians concerned and reduced their ability to be acceptable to the population.  Those politicians lost the benefits described above, of two-way communication with the people (


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6833.htm.