Imagine my personal alarm when hearing on the news this morning that the White House has vowed to “punch back twice as hard.” I couldn’t even imagine what the ‘talking heads’ were referring to. I sat closer to the TV to hear just what was happening to the land of the free.It seems that top White House officials have recently counseled Democratic senators on coping with disruptions at public events on health care this summer and promised the party and allies would respond with twice the force if any individual lawmaker is criticized in television advertising.Does this mean I no longer have freedom of speech? Let’s get real. The freedom of speech and expression is covered universally. It is recognized in international and regional human rights law. The right is enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Furthermore, it can be found in early human rights documents, such as the British Magna Carta (1215) and The Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789), a key document of the French Revolution.Based on John Stuart Mill’s arguments, freedom of speech today is understood as a multi-faceted right that includes not only the right to express, or disseminate, information and ideas, but three further distinct aspects: * the right to seek information and ideas; * the right to receive information and ideas; * the right to impart information and ideas.International, regional and national standards also recognize that freedom of speech, as the freedom of expression, includes any medium, be it orally, in written, in print, through the Internet or through art forms. This means that the protection of freedom of speech as a right includes not only the content, but also the means of expression.So what does all this mean? How does it make you feel? Are you going to back down from speaking up? GO!