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 | Audio/Video
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Rae Langton on philosophy, free speech and pornography

In this interview for Free Speech Debate, renowned Philosophy Professor Rae Langton speaks about the value of philosophy for our understanding of free speech and discusses aspects of her work on pornography and the silencing of women.

Published on: June 15, 2015 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

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Giles Fraser on free speech and religion

Giles Fraser, commentator and Anglican priest, talks with Declan Johnston about the relationship between free speech and religion, and the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

Published on: May 4, 2015 | Principle 7 | Comments: 0

From-Gut-to-Zuck edit

What is the internet?

John Naughton discusses the state of the internet, net neutrality and private companies.

Published on: March 31, 2015 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

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Free speech and television in Russia

Peter Pomerantsev speaks to Declan Johnston about free speech in Russia and the role of Russian television. 

Published on: March 26, 2015 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0


Has Demotix democratised journalism?

Demotix founder Turi Munthe discusses the role of citizen journalism and Demotix in today's media environment.

Published on: March 18, 2015 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0


‘To fight through cartoons’

Malaysian cartoonist Zunar talks about what it means to be a satirical cartoonist in Malaysia.

Published on: February 20, 2015 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Burmese monks

Right speech

Leslie Green argues that Buddhist ideas about avoiding divisive, abusive and false speech can help us live together well in free societies

Published on: January 24, 2015 | Principle 4 | Comments: 0

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Salman Rushdie: free speech, 25 years on

25 years after the fatwa and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Salman Rushdie discusses with Timothy Garton Ash whether there is now more or less freedom of expression in Europe, worrying developments in India and his critical view of Edward Snowden.

Published on: August 30, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

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Freedom to offend?

At the London School of Economics Students's Union Freshers' Fair members of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student Society were asked to cover up their T-shirts displaying a Jesus and Mo cartoon. This panel discussion discusses the freedom to offend and how to balance freedom of expression and civility.

Published on: August 27, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 1

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Should Europe introduce a ‘right to blaspheme’?

Alain Bouldoires talks to Timothy Garton Ash about the survival of blasphemy laws in Europe, and calls for a 'right to blaspheme'.

Published on: August 18, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0


Jytte Klausen on Yale University and the Danish cartoons

Professor Jytte Klausen analyses and criticises Yale University Press's decision to remove images of Muhammad from her scholarly book on the Danish cartoons controversy.

Published on: April 17, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Ann Wright

A former US Diplomat says secrecy is necessary when peace is at stake

Former US Diplomat Ann Wright speaks to Kim Wilkinson on the need for whistleblowers and institutions like WikiLeaks, but stresses that in some instances secrecy is necessary, such as in peace-making negotiations.

Published on: April 9, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

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Reading Orwell in Rangoon

At the 2013 Irrawaddy Literary Festival, Burmese writers including Pascal Khoo Thwe and blogpoet Pandora talk about George Orwell in the country where he was once an imperial policeman.

Published on: December 5, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

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Thou shall not leak

Thomas Fingar, 2013 winner of the Sam Adams Awards for Integrity in Intelligence, argues that leaking classified information from within the intelligence services is unnecessary and dangerous.

Published on: October 8, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Indian activists from a hardline Hindu group burn a poster of Indian artist Husain during a protest in Bangalore

Why did M F Husain feel he had to leave India?

Shruti Kapila, Patrick French and Faisal Devji discuss freedom of expression and the arts in India.

Published on: July 15, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev speaks with Channel One Russia TV presenter Vladimir Pozner during the "Pozner" program in Moscow

No free speech please, we’re Russian

Famous Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner says he thinks Russia really has no concept of free speech. Oh, but there's one place where you do have complete freedom of expression...

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

Ray McGovern, a former CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) agent, appears during an unofficial forum o..

In defence of whistleblowing

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern has been an outspoken defender of whistleblowers and alternative media sources.

Published on: June 27, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 3

National Security Agency logo is shown on computer screen at NSA in Maryland

A whistleblower’s argument

Edward Snowden was not the first NSA official to sound the alarm. Thomas Drake, winner of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, makes his case to Free Speech Debate.

Published on: June 21, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 1


Combining freedom and diversity: the challenge of religious difference

Legal philosopher Martha Nussbaum gave the 2013 Dahrendorf Lecture, exploring how to live with religious diversity.

Published on: June 14, 2013 | Principle 4 | Comments: 0


Free Speech Bites

Nigel Warburton spoke with Timothy Garton Ash for Index on Censorship's Free Speech Bites about the Free Speech Debate Project and global free speech standards.

Published on: May 1, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 3


George Orwell, Burma and three challenges to free expression

Timothy Garton Ash delivers the Orwell Lecture at an unprecedented literary festival in Rangoon. He talks about three Orwells and three Burmas.

Published on: April 23, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


Taming the gods: religion and politics

At the 2013 Jaipur Festival, Ian Buruma, Reza Aslan, Ahdaf Souief and Timothy Garton Ash, in conversation with Shoma Chaudhury, talk about the relationship between religion and politics and how to deal with religious threats to free speech.

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


The writer and the state

The relationship between writers and the state is complex, multifaceted and changing. At the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 a panel of experts explores some of the issues faced by writers around the world.

Published on: March 15, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Workers are pictured beneath clocks displaying time zones in various parts of the world at an outsourcing centre in Bangalore

Seen from India: is freedom of expression under threat in the digital age?

At the invitation of Index of Censorship and the Editors Guild of India, Timothy Garton Ash joins Kirsty Hughes at a panel discussion in Delhi with Shri Ajit Balakrishnan, Shri Sunil Abraham and Ramajit Singh Chima.

Published on: March 1, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 1


William Dalrymple on the Jaipur Literature Festival

The historian and writer explains the reasoning behind author Salman Rushdie's no-show at the 2012 Jaipur Literary Festival.

Published on: January 25, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

Tensions Remain High In Srinagar

Prashant Bhushan on a Kashmiri referendum

If the territorial dispute over Kashmir is not addressed through open debate, it may become "another Afghanistan", says the Indian supreme court lawyer.

Published on: January 21, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

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In India, too, people say self-regulation of the media is not enough.

In a panel John Lloyd, T.R. Andhyarujina, Harish Salve and Daya Thussu discussed whether self-regulation can continue to remain a viable way forward for the Indian media.

Published on: January 18, 2013 | Principle 3 | Comments: 1

Tarun Tejpal, Story of my Assassins

Tarun Tejpal on investigative journalism and corruption in India

Indian journalist and writer Tarun Tejpal speaks about development and corruption in India, and the role of investigative journalism.

Published on: January 16, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

The future of free speech

The Future of Free Speech

Aryeh Neier, human rights lawyer and president emeritus of the Open Society Foundations speaks about the future of free speech.

Published on: January 11, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 3


A former British agent makes the case for whistleblowing.

Former British MI5 agent Annie Machon revealed, together with David Shayler, alleged criminal behaviour within the agency. In an interview with Sebastian Huempfer she speaks about the need for official channels through which whistleblowers can voice their concerns.

Published on: December 3, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

A cameraman's shadow is reflected on a poster of names of journalists who were slain in Philippines, during a prayer rally in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day in Manila

Libel and cybercrime laws in the Philippines

Filippino journalist Marites Vitug speaks about her experience being charged with libel for her investigative journalism, freedom of the press in the Philippines and the new cybercrime law.

Published on: November 21, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Students learning to use a computer

Enabling internet access in Mexico

Aleph Molinari, founder of Fundación Proacceso ECO, speaks to Brian Pellot about why his Mexico-based non-profit organisation promotes information and communication technologies for development and why the internet should be considered a basic right.

Published on: November 7, 2012 | Principle 1 | 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.