Free Speech Debate in 2017

From Britain to the United States, from Turkey to Russia, from Japan to Germany, explore the most important debates on free speech from around the world in 2017

Free speech debates are more than ‘radicals’ vs ‘liberals’

Eric Heinze argues that the radicals and liberal grounds for free speech are not mutually exclusive.

A protest against the BBC’s offer of a platform to BNP leader Nick Griffin in 2009. (Image by James M Thorne under Creative Commons license)

Can you teach people how to disagree without being disagreeable?

Tony Koutsoumbos explores the lessons from his own experiences in building an environment of robust and strong public debate.

Theresa May’s first Prime Minister’s Question Time as Prime Minister (Photo by UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor) under a Creative Commons License available here: No changes made. Image link:

Should Indian politicians be allowed to appeal to voters based on their religion, race, and caste?

Udit Bhatia discusses a landmark ruling concerning the conduct of elections and its potential to stifle democratic debate.

Campaign mural for West Bengal Socialist Party candidate Nawal Joshi for the 2005 Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections. (Creative Commons Attribution) Source:

India: the rapist’s veto?

Vanya Bhargav explores why Indian women are less free to express themselves through dress than Indian men.

Antizionism and antisemitism in British politics

Avi Shlaim explores the quality of debate within British politics of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and argues that an anti-racist movement has been portrayed as a racist one.

Protests in London in January 2009 organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, and British Muslim Initiative. (Creative Commons Attribution) Image link:

Barack Obama, John Kerry, and the Palestine saga

Avi Shlaim explores whether there was anything Obama could have done to salvage his reputation in the remaining weeks of his lame-duck presidency.

Secretary of State John Kerry meet with PM Benjamin Netanyahu, at the David Citadel Hotel Jerusalem April 9, 2013. (Photo by Matty Ster under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license) Image link:

OSCE freedom of the media representative Dunja Mijatović: what are the biggest threats to free speech in Europe?

Dunja Mijatović in conversation with Timothy Garton Ash

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, attending a seminar in Bishkek, June 2013 by Gunnar Vrang. (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License) Image link:

An insistent effort by the Hrant Dink Foundation against hate speech in Turkey

Pınar Ensari and Funda Tekin explain the work of the Hrant Dink Foundation in countering hate speech in Turkey.

Over 100,000 people protesting in Istanbul in 2007 after the assassination of prominent journalist Hrant Dink, carrying placards such as “We are all Hrant Dink” and “We are all Armenians” in Turkish, Armenian, and Kurdish. Image in the public domain. Source:

It’s high time for a European Broadcasting Service

Jakob von Weizsäcker and André Wilkens explain why Europe urgently needs a broadcasting service.

Microphone (Photo by drestwn under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 licence) License link: Image link: No changes made.

The erosion of European journalism

Caroline Lees describes the work of the European Journalism Observatory, and what it is has observed.

Newspapers in black and white. (Photo by Jon S under a Creative Commons 2.0 Share-Alike license) License link: Image link:

The defence of free speech in Hungary

Timothy Garton Ash, in a lecture at Central European University, entitled Free Speech and the Defence of an Open Society, argues that liberalism and liberal democracy, which has historically given voice to the powerless against the powerful, is under threat.

Photo: CEU/Daniel Vegel

Why the future of free speech depends on India

Timothy Garton Ash, speaking at the 2017 Jaipur Literary Festival, explains why the future of free speech depends on India.

Timothy Garton Ash, speaking at the 2017 Jaipur Literary Festival

The defence of free speech in Hungary

Timothy Garton Ash argues the defence of free speech is more important than ever in Hungary and as part of an interconnected, globalising world in which the disillusioned are turning toward more closed societies.

Heroes’ Square, one of the major squares in Budapest, Hungary. It contains statues to the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and other national leaders, as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Photo by Paul Mannix under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike licence) Image link:

Truth cannot be expelled: free speech under attack in Turkey

Timothy Garton Ash, in a lecture at Boğaziçi University, entitled Free Speech Under Attack, explains why the media is essential for a functioning deliberative democracy. He argues that populism and the projection of dominant voices through the media is a significant threat to free speech in Turkey and around the globe.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a press conference with the Netherlands in 2012. (Photo by Magnus Manske under a Creative Commons 2.0 License) Source:

Data visualisations: why facts don’t speak for themselves

William Allen calls for a robust debate of how data are presented.

Europe City Lights. Image in the public domain. Image link:

Free Speech? Not for critics of Israel

Avi Shlaim argues that when it comes to debates concerning Israel, free speech has become stifled in British academia.

Israel flag. (Photo by Zachi Evenor under a Creative Commons Attribution License) Image link:

Ben Wizner, Edward Snowden’s lawyer: We need to defend free expression and privacy against ‘national security’

Ben Wizner, Edward Snowden’s ACLU lawyer, reflects on the state of and importance of the right to free speech in 2017. He argues we must not overuse the term ‘national security’ or surrender our right to privacy because we have nothing to hide, for we would not deny somebody the right to free speech because they had nothing to say.

Edward Snowden (Photo by the Freedom of the Press Foundation under a Creative Commons 4.0 License) Image link:

Should students be free to savage their professors using online anonymity?

Jonathan Raspe explores the case of the Münkler Watch blog, which relentlessly criticised Herfried Münkler, professor of political theory at Humboldt University.

Professor Herfried Münkler. (Photo by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung under a Creative Commons 2.0 License) Image link:

Free expression in the Gulf: attempts to silence 140 characters. A Free Speech Debate podcast

A podcast of a seminar by the University of Oxford’s Middle East Centre and Free Speech Debate on Free Expression in the Gulf, with Maryam al-Khawaja, Toby Matthieson (St. Anthony’s College) and Nicholas McGeehan (Middle East Researcher, Human Rights Watch). Chaired by Timothy Garton Ash (St Antony’s College and Free Speech Debate)

140 dissidents. Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

Philosophy in the bookshop: Timothy Garton Ash in conversation with Nigel Warburton. A Free Speech Debate podcast

Timothy Garton Ash in conversation with Nigel Warburton, as part of the Philosophy in the Bookshop series at Blackwell’s, Oxford.

Social media logos superimposed onto pastel crayons. Image by mkhmarketing under a Creative Commons 2.0 License. Image link:

Should I go to that conference in Hungary?

Boycotts betray free enquiry, but Viktor Orbán’s moves against the Central European University at least make them worth debating, says Eric Heinze

Central European University. Photo by Gphgrd01 under a Creative Commons 2.0 License. Image link:

Israel, no-platforming – and why there’s no such thing as ‘narrow exceptions’ to campus free speech

Eric Heinze argues that it is contradictory to the principles of free speech to criticise the Israeli ambassador to Britain online and then no-platform him at a university talk.

Dome of the Rock and Wailing Wall, Jerusalem. (Photo by Peter Mulligan under a Creative Commons 2.0 Share-Alike license) Image link:

Freedom of speech in Japan and the Designated Secrets Law

Arthur Stockwin explains the four main areas where free speech is under threat in Japan.

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe shaking hands at the White House. (Photo by Government of Japan Cabinet Public Relations Office under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License) Image link:

The internet alone will not set Africa free

Iginio Gagliardone explores the surprising technopolitics of two competing visions of the internet, US and Chinese, in Ethiopia.

Two schoolchildren using Kio Kit, a tablet charging system designed for rural classrooms. (Photo by BRCK Education under a Creative Commons Attribution License) Image link:

Media freedom and free speech in South Africa

Kate O’Regan, founding director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford and a former judge of the Constitutional Court from 1994-2009, discusses free speech and media freedom in South Africa.

Are we losing the media we need for democracy?

Timothy Garton Ash discusses the importance of and whether we are losing the media for democracy at the General Editors Network Summit 2017 in Vienna.

The Parthenon. (Photo by Pixabay) Image link:

Russia: ‘The Church has an enemy in every home.’ It’s television.

Helen Haft explains how the Orthodox Church has eroded freedom of the media and lobbied for the 2013 law against offending religious feelings.

Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill I of Russia meeting in 2015. (Photo by under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License) Image link:

The archipelago of press restriction in Turkey

Emre Caliskan and Simon Waldman explain how Turkey became the world’s largest imprisoner of journalists.

The Protect Your Republic Protest at Anıtkabir in 2007. (Photo by Selahattin Sönmez under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license) Image link: No changes made.

Bridging the deep digital divide in India

Only 17% of rural India has internet access. But citizen journalism is giving voice to minorities says Arpita Biswas.

Rice farmer, SE Punjab, India, in 2011. (Photo by Neil Palmer of CIAT under aAttribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License. No changes made) License link: Image link:

The left’s version of hate speech: guilt by association

Leftists who argue for hate speech bans ignore the far left’s own version, argues Eric Heinze.

Image in Public Domain

Don’t blame news polarisation on the internet…it’s not the technology, stupid!

The internet does not guarantee polarised news, argues Richard Fletcher.

Image by tec_estromberg under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License (CC BY 2.0) Image link: No changes made

Hate speech and inter-ethnic violence in Nigeria

Bill Snaddon describes Nigerian writers’ appeals to curb hate speech and ethnic stereotyping in a fragile nation.

The National Christian Centre and Abuja National Mosque, which are opposite one another in Abuja. Left hand side: The National Christian Centre, Abuja. (Image by Croberto68 under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License) Image link: Right hand side: Abuja National Mosque (Image by Shiraz Chakera under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licence) Image link:

Las Vegas: the US is racked with impossible divisions over rights and freedoms

Todd Landman explores the contradictions between the American Constitution and the freedoms it seeks to preserve.

Mandalay Bay Hotel, Las Vegas. (Image by Cyberdoomslayer under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License) Image link:

In defence of Europe’s memory laws

There are two exceptional cases in which memory laws protect free speech, argue Grażyna Baranowska and Anna Wójcik.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. (Image by Alexander Blum under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.) Image link:

The UK can show the way on platform regulation. But not by treating Facebook and Google as publishers

Mark Bunting argues that the tech giants should accept ‘procedural accountability’

Facebook Globe. Image Source: Shutterstock

Solving the political ad problem with transparency

Customised news undermines democratic debate, argues Seth Copen Goldstein

Shared reading of newspaper. Source: Shutterstock

Art with the ‘courage of thought’ is the best response to ‘hate speech’

Hungarian academic and performer Peter Molnar explains the importance of Gondolatbátorság to his ‘Hate Speech’ Monologues.

A government-funded billboard advertising the ongoing national consultation on the ‘Soros Plan’, viewed from a Jewish cemetery in Szeged, Hungary. (Photo by Renny Hahamovitch of CEU) Image link:

South Africa’s long walk to freedom of expression

Free speech holds the powerful to account and is essential to ending apartheid’s legacy of division, argues Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi.

South Africa Flag on Hands. Source: Shutterstock

Are you sitting comfortably? How safe spaces became dangerous

We must distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate safe spaces, argues Eric Heinze.

A placard from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network protest in New York City in April 2015. Source: Shutterstock

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford.

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