Free Speech Debate

Thirteen languages. Ten principles. One conversation.

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1We – all human beings – must be free and able to express ourselves, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers.»
2We defend the internet and all other forms of communication against illegitimate encroachments by both public and private powers.»
3We require and create open, diverse media so we can make well-informed decisions and participate fully in political life.»
4We speak openly and with civility about all kinds of human difference.»
5We allow no taboos in the discussion and dissemination of knowledge.»
6We neither make threats of violence nor accept violent intimidation.»
7We respect the believer but not necessarily the content of the belief.»
8We are all entitled to a private life but should accept such scrutiny as is in the public interest.»
9We should be able to counter slurs on our reputations without stifling legitimate debate.»
10We must be free to challenge all limits to freedom of expression and information justified on such grounds as national security, public order, morality and the protection of intellectual property.»

What’s missing?

Is there a vital area we have not addressed? A principle 11? An illuminating case study? Read other people's suggestions and add your own here. Or start the debate in your own language.

Home | Archives | Discussions
India Protests 2012

Silencing India’s daughters

Vanya Bhargav explains the battle behind the Indian government's ban on a BBC documentary about a notorious gang rape.

Published on: March 23, 2015 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


How and why Hong Kong’s press downplayed the ‘umbrella movement’ of 2014

Rebecca Wong describes the combined pressures of Chinese political power and the interests of media proprietors.

Published on: March 11, 2015 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0


Ian McEwan on free speech and religion

The celebrated English novelist on Islam's 'totalitarian moment' and why freedom of expression is not religion’s enemy but its protector.

Published on: February 16, 2015 | Principle 7 | Comments: 3

Buddha worship

What did the Buddha mean by ‘right speech’?

Matthew Walton explores the deeper Buddhist context of right speech – and soul-searching on Buddhist internet message boards.

Published on: February 10, 2015 | Principle 4 | Comments: 0

Man addressing crowd at Speakers' Corner, London

Living in outrageous times

Peter Bradley argues that we should tolerate offence but be less offensive

Published on: December 18, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 3

Weibo blocking

How a Weibo post gets censored

Jason Q Ng traces the path of a censored Weibo post and tracks keywords that trigger automatic review.

Published on: December 5, 2014 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

hand on mouse

Free to fantasise? Pornography and its harms.

Jo Fidgen asks what the hard evidence is for negative effects of pornography on sexual behaviour.

Published on: December 1, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


How the British press distorted reporting of… the British press

Martin Moore, of the Media Standards Trust, summarises an analysis of British press coverage of proposed new press regulation.

Published on: November 3, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0


Google grapples with the ‘right to be forgotten’

Katie Engelhart attends the public hearing of Google’s Advisory Council, set up in response to a European Court of Justice judgement.

Published on: October 29, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

internet access

How can you tell what’s banned on the Internet?

Joss Wright describes the technical and ethical challenges in investigating online censorship.

Published on: October 21, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

Gaza reporting

Clueless in Gaza: Western media and the Arab-Israeli conflict

John Lloyd explores the history and weakness of Western media coverage, and suggests one way it could be improved.

Published on: October 10, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 1


A new initiative to defend free speech in India

Hartosh Bal explains the role of the new Freedom Trust in the context of India’s media environment, and how they hope to defend freedom of expression.

Published on: October 2, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


National Security: Sample our intellectual buffet. Or make your own meal.

Timothy Garton Ash introduces a sample tour of the content on our site.

Published on: August 31, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

FSD religion

Religion: Sample our intellectual buffet. Or make your own meal.

Timothy Garton Ash introduces a sample tour of the content on our site.

Published on: August 31, 2014 | Principle 7 | Comments: 0

FSD Privacy

Privacy: Sample our intellectual buffet. Or make your own meal.

Timothy Garton Ash introduces a sample tour of the content on our site

Published on: August 31, 2014 | Principle 8 | Comments: 0


Vote for Hong Kong – on the streets and online

In 2014, the citizens of Hong Kong staged an unofficial civil referendum in protest against the Beijing authorities’ attempts to undermine its independence. As Rebecca Wong reports, the majority of the votes were cast via a voting app on mobile phones.

Published on: August 11, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


Imported Repression in the Middle East

A leaked document in June 2014 from Egypt’s ministry of the interior invited tenders for cyber-surveillance technology to combat blasphemy, sarcasm and ‘lack of morality’ - the technology would likely come from the west. Max Gallien reports.

Published on: August 1, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


Should ISPs be told to block “adult” content?

Internet Service Providers do not merely route data packets from end-to-end, but are heavily involved in monitoring their customers’ online activities. Ian Brown discusses the implications of Britain's suggested “voluntary” opting out of “adult content”, with little parliamentary and court involvement.

Published on: July 15, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


EU versus intellectual freedom?

In a bid to synchronise hate crimes, the EU is seeking unity amongst members states against the denial of historical injustices. Is this the EU versus member states’ appreciation of intellectual freedom? Luigi Cajani explains.

Published on: June 19, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Bassem Youssef

Egypt: the show is over

Bassem Youssef and the Egyptian struggle for freedom of speech.

Published on: June 10, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

FSD 12248961183_0e6d46ec7b_z

National security and privacy: striking the balance

Anthony Lester and Zoe McCallum discuss the need to balance national security and privacy in the age of internet surveillance.

Published on: May 21, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1


The world through the eyes of Russian state television

Robert Coalson looks at how Russian television depicts everything from the crisis in Ukraine to the war in Syria.

Published on: May 7, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


The long struggle to bury speech crimes in the English-speaking world

Anthony Lester and Zoe McCallum look at how the ghost of the English Court of the Star Chamber has been used to suppress free speech.

Published on: April 28, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

hong kong media

Hong Kong: two systems, one country?

Samson Yuen and Kitty Ho argue that the stabbing of a former Hong Kong news editor is a symptom of a broader squeeze on the city’s freedoms.

Published on: April 23, 2014 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0

cartoon protest

Why Yale UP did not publish the Danish cartoons

John Donatich, the director of Yale University Press, explains and defends his decision not to include illustrations in Jytte Klausen’s book.

Published on: April 18, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 3

hate speech

Nineteen arguments for hate speech bans – and against them

Free speech scholar Eric Heinze identifies the main arguments for laws restricting hate speech and says none are valid for mature Western democracies.

Published on: March 31, 2014 | Principle 4 | Comments: 0

Aung sung hate speech

Regulating hate speech: lessons for Asia

Cherian George on how hate speech is gaining virulence in Asian countries such as Myanmar, and how peace-building workshops represent a positive step forward.

Published on: March 31, 2014 | Principle 4 | Comments: 0

Social media in China

The way Xi moves: free speech under assault in China

Shi Yige examines different approaches to censorship in China, and argues that while internet controls might avail the leadership in the short term, they are unsustainable.

Published on: March 21, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1


Our draft principles and introduction in Catalan

Our draft principles, and Timothy Garton Ash's personal introduction, have been translated into Catalan.

Published on: March 4, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 1


The importance of speaking Catalan

Pere Vilanova reflects on his personal experience of learning his ‘native’ tongue – as a third language.

Published on: March 2, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 4


From incitement to self-censorship: the media in the Kenyan elections of 2007 and 2013

Katherine Bruce-Lockhart looks at the media's role in two Kenyan elections and argues that peace and critical media coverage should not be mutually exclusive.

Published on: February 14, 2014 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0


‘They used the oven to get tanned, you know…’

Marc-Antoine Dilhac recounts how he confronted anti-semitic prejudice in a French classroom, and argues that more good comes from an open debate about hate speech than from banning it.

Published on: February 6, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 2

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.