This verse is perhaps one of the most far-reaching of the Quranic enactments which offer guidelines on the restrictions that may be imposed on freedom of speech.
Words uttered in public which hurt another person by violating his/her honour or causing him/her physical harm or loss of property, whether directly or indirectly (such as by abusing his close relatives or homeland), are all covered by this verse. Hurtful speech, in this text, comprises that which is addressed to an individual, to more than one person, or to the community at large. Furthermore, the text is broad enough to comprehend all modern methods and facilities which are used for publicity and broadcasting.
In their commentaries on this verse, the commentators (mufassirun) indicate that the text here denounces the utterance of offensive speech absolutely, that is, regardless of the end it may serve or the context in which it may occur. The text does not, for instance, draw any distinction as to whether the speech so uttered consists of truth or falsehood, or whether it contemplates any kind of benefit. The only exception here is made for a person who has been wronged, and his/her cry for justice must be granted a hearing even at the expense of it being hurtful.
"Freedom of Expression in Islam" - Mohammad Hashim Kamali, pp. 167, 168