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
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 14, 2014 | Principle 7 | Comments: 0

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 3 | 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: 0


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: 0


From incitement to self-censorship: the media in 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 4 | Comments: 2


Germans are not especially concerned about privacy and sovereignty

Nazi past? Stasi past? Sebastian Huempfer challenges the conventional explanations for Germany’s strong reaction to Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA snooping.

Published on: January 30, 2014 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

Phone hacking

Pressing for press accountability in Britain

Jonathan Heawood on ten reasons why independent self-regulation is good for free speech – and how his new initiative, IMPRESS, proposes to go about it.

Published on: January 27, 2014 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0


Who is threatening free speech in post-revolutionary Tunisia?

Middle East specialist Rory McCarthy examines the role of Islamist movement Ennahdha in shaping, and constraining, freedom of speech in Tunisia after the Arab Spring.

Published on: January 6, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


Can Australia distinguish between art and pornography?

Kim Wilkinson examines the case of celebrated Australian artist Bill Henson, who caused controversy in 2008 with his photography that featured images of naked teenagers.

Published on: January 3, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 3

David Cameron

Opt-in for porn? Then why not for religion?

Leslie Green, a distinguished legal philosopher who has written extensively about issues of obscenity and pornography, challenges our case study on online porn filters.

Published on: January 1, 2014 | Principle 2 | Comments: 3


Assessing the state of free speech in Norway

University of Oslo professor Tore Slaatta describes a pioneering project to evaluate freedom of expression in a whole country.

Published on: December 22, 2013 | Comments: 0


Using the rhetoric of press freedom to thwart free speech

Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust, argues that the British press has denied the British public a proper debate on press regulation.

Published on: December 12, 2013 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0

shunga exhibition

Does a British Museum exhibition turn porn into art?

Katie Engelhart visits a shunga exhibition at the British Museum, and asks if the sexually explicit can be art. Along the way she explores issues of artistic intent and temporality.

Published on: November 28, 2013 | Principle 4 | Comments: 1

Whistle-blower Snowden

Internet access in the age of the surveillance state

Oxford University’s Ian Brown asks what Europe can do to protect our digital rights and privacy.

Published on: November 12, 2013 | Principle 2 | Comments: 1


Why the US needs more open debate about its failures on race

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington must be the beginning of the discussion of race, not the end. Bassam Gergi discusses why the depoliticisation of race in the US is problematic and only open debate can lead to progress.

Published on: October 4, 2013 | Principle 4 | Comments: 0

Ahmed Akkari says "it was okay" that Jyllands-Posten printed cartoons

From Muslim activist to free speech defender: the story of Ahmad Akkari and the Danish cartoon controversy

Katie Engelhart speaks to Ahmad Akkari to find out why he apologised to one of the Danish cartoonists eight years after fuelling worldwide fury.

Published on: September 25, 2013 | Principle 5 | Comments: 0

Quote by Benjamin Franklin (Photo by k_donovan11 under a Creative Commons  Attribution 2.0 Licence)

Is Facebook just the new chamber of commerce and Twitter the new telegraph?

Political theorist Rob Reich discusses what adaptations we need as freedom of speech and association move increasingly from the offline to the online world. Can the old principles still apply in new circumstances?

Published on: September 17, 2013 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0

U.S. President Bush signs FISA Amendments Act of 2008 in Rose Garden of the White House in Washington

Can a law-abiding liberal democracy be Big Brother?

Jeff Howard explores the legal basis on which the US is collecting vast amounts of data on foreign and US citizens, despite the Fourth Amendment.

Published on: July 3, 2013 | Principle 8 | Comments: 0

The image of a pregnant woman with her unborn child in her womb is seen in this..

Should society tolerate all forms of art?

We regularly highlight comments that have made an impression on us. FSD user Perreaoult argues that Art has to be completely free as an instrument of expression.

Published on: June 20, 2013 | Principle 5 | Comments: 1

A Zimbabwean man takes refuge at the Milnerton police station after fleeing a fresh outbreak of anti-foreigner violence in Cape Town

When to be silent is to speak

Stephen Meili examines the contrasting UK and US treatment of people who refuse to declare a political allegiance.

Published on: June 6, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

Burning newspaper (Photo by Punit Paranjpe / Reuters)

Does India need its Leveson?

India has its own fierce debate about media regulation. Arghya Sengupta discusses how the shadow of the 1970s “Emergency” hangs over proposed steps from failed self-regulation to statutory regulation.

Published on: May 30, 2013 | Principle 3 | Comments: 3

Freedom Square

Dziesięć zasad

Po Polsku! Our 10 draft principles translated into Polish by Maciej Stasiński of Gazeta Wyborcza

Published on: May 15, 2013 | Principle 11 | Comments: 0


The difference between genocide and crimes against humanity

We regularly highlight comments that have made an impression on us. Antoon de Baets left an insightful response to Josie Appleton's discussion of memory laws in France.

Published on: May 10, 2013 | Principle 5 | Comments: 0


When does hate speech become dangerous speech? Consider Kenya and Rwanda

The forthcoming trial of Kenyan broadcaster Joshua Arap Sang poses vital questions about the connections between words and violence, argues Katherine Bruce-Lockhart.

Published on: April 26, 2013 | Principle 4 | Comments: 11


Child pornography and freedom of expression

Did the European Court of Human Rights wrongly considered the distribution of child pornography to be an exercise of freedom of expression in the case Karttunen v. Finland, asks Rónán Ó Fathaigh.

Published on: April 24, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


A Turkish journalist’s censored plea for press freedom

Kerem Oktem introduces our translation of a column by Hasan Cemal, which his newspaper, Milliyet, refused to print.

Published on: April 12, 2013 | Principle 3 | Comments: 1

Demonstrators wearing Fawkes masks protest against Spain's Culture Minister Gonzalez-Sinde in Madrid

The Copyright Alert System: coming to a home near you?

The question of how best to respond to the unauthorised dissemination of copyright-protected expression over the internet has long troubled copyright owners. But the proposed solution of a Copyright Alert could potentially erode free speech, writes Graham Reynolds.

Published on: April 10, 2013 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0


Freedom for history? The case against memory laws

Josie Appleton talks to Pierre Nora and Olivier Salvatori of the Liberté pour l’Histoire initiative in France.

Published on: April 3, 2013 | Principle 5 | Comments: 2


Who should guard the Guardian?

Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian, argues that Britain needs both a free press and reform of its failed regulatory system. Since this will require both time and openness, a new independent press regulator should therefore be given a year's trial run.

Published on: April 2, 2013 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0

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.