Freedom of expression is a value for the Bulgarians but it also includes the language of hatred

Freedom of expression is a value not only for the media but also for a large part of the society in our country – nearly 84%. However, at the same time over 64% of the Bulgarians understand this achievement of democracy in our country as the right to use language of hatred.

Is freedom of speech valuable? Do we tolerate the language of hatred? Who is freedom of expression important to? These topics focus on the research of the Institute of Politics and the Institute for Population and Human Studies at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, managed by the political psychologist Prof. Antoaneta Hristova.

The attachment to freedom of speech is highest in the 26-45 age group, whose conscious and active life begins after the changes.

In general, people over the age of 56 and those with the lowest economic status as well as those with left-wing political self-determination are more skeptical that freedom of expression is a value. The lowest value is in 66-75-year-olds, while for people over 75, the rating again slightly goes up. The trend is somewhat paradoxical, but also understandable by the censorship that the Bulgarians of these generations remember well. But there is also a second hypothesis: older people do not accept freedom of speech as unconditional.

In a sense, it is confirmed by the data on the acceptance of the language of hatred – the most tolerant of this public phenomenon are the youngest people aged between 18 and 25. The opposite is that the highest proportion of people over 66 who do not believe that full freedom of expression also includes the language of hatred.

The research found a large generational gap between parents and children: 66-75 year-olds believe that today everyone can express their opinions while the young people at about yhe age of 18-35 are convinced that some have more freedom to speak and others do not have that opportunity. Therefore, people who have been censored appreciate the current state of freedom of expression much more and according to their children it is not equally accessible. The trend is explicable with the evolution of the understanding of the liberties as well as also with the deficiencies which different generations realise in different ways.

Another paradox is the proportion of the extreme right and the extreme left respondents that approve the language of hatred is high, but not the highest one. The results indicate that as a whole the level of acceptance of the language of hatred is high and on the right side of the political spectrum it is marked by peak values.

People with higher education and a better economic status appreciate the freedom of speech and accept the language of hatred as part of it. It can be assumed that they have more self-confidence in their ability to distinguish between the language of hatred and the act of hatred and they have the need of critical and direct speech.

The survey is nationally representative, conducted with 1200 direct interviews in 44 settlements among adult Bulgarians over 18 years of age. It is provided with its own funding.