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Poll in Germany: Freedom of speech? Yes! But with "consequences"

Freedom of expression is relative. This is proven by a quote attributed to the African dictator Idi Amin. "You have freedom of speech. It is freedom after speech that I cannot guarantee. " Loosely translated: “You are free to express your opinion, but I cannot guarantee that you will still have your freedom afterwards”. The debate on freedom of expression in Germany revolves around precisely this dilemma or misunderstanding it. You can say anything, but you have to stand by the consequences, say those who do not see any problems with freedom of expression. A statement that also applies in most authoritarian states. No, in Germany there is no threat of arrest for dissenting opinions. But this is also the case today in many authoritarian states. There is a lot of work with social exclusion, when it comes to pressure of opinion. Or with professional disadvantages. And unfortunately that's not a foreign concept in Germany either.

Journalist Boris Reitschuster commissioned INSA polling institute to conduct a survey. More than 2,000 representative selected people in Germany were asked to express their opinion on the following thesis via telephone and online: "I fear negative consequences if I express my opinion freely on certain topics."

35 percent of all respondents fear such negative consequences. On the other hand, 50 percent of those surveyed do not fear any negative consequences.

While among West German respondents the difference between those who do not fear negative consequences from expressing an opinion and those who do so is 20 percentage points (60 to 40 percent), this difference is significantly smaller for East German respondents at four percentage points (52 to 48 percent). In the east, significantly more people fear negative consequences for expressions of opinion.

Respondents with a net household income of less than 1,000 euros fear negative consequences much more often than respondents in the other income groups if they freely express their opinion on certain topics (52 to 37 to 41 percent). They are also the only group that a majority agree with the statement.

AfD voters are the only ones with an absolute majority (77 percent) who agree with the statement that they fear negative consequences due to their expression of opinion. FDP voters are divided (50 percent each). A majority of all other groups of voters reject the statement (63 to 85 percent).

In a democratic society nobody except extremists should fear negative consequences if they express their opinion freely. This is exactly what constitutes democracy and distinguishes it from non-liberal systems. In contrast to the prevailing interpretation of ideologues who determine the climate of opinion today, reference should again be made to Idi Amin: Freedom of opinion does not just mean that you can only express your opinion, but that there is also a climate in which the non-extremist opinions are possible without fear. That's how I also experienced it in the old Federal Republic.

If today more than one in three people can no longer express their opinion on certain issues without fear of the consequences, that is an indictment of a free democracy and a warning sign. Even more so when these numbers are particularly high for certain political groups. Because freedom of opinion must always be measured by how great it is for those whose opinion deviates from the prevailing or the opinion wanted by the rulers. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten this truism today. They are reminded that even in non-free systems one has every freedom to express the prevailing opinion freely, loudly and everywhere.
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