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.


We 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.

Timothy Garton Ash
A personal introduction

If our first draft principle is the basic principle, our final one is a kind of meta-principle. It says we must be free to challenge all limits on free expression. That is a procedural claim. (more...)

Do you agree with this principle? Yes No


More discussions

Case studies

  • FSD CS Twitter

    14 year-old’s Twitter prank leads to arrest in the Netherlands

    A prank by a 14 year-old Dutch girl on Twitter prompted both her arrest – and broader questions about free speech, as Max Harris discusses.

    June 25, 2014 | Comments: 7
  • Cheetahs in Tanzania (Photo by Ward Graham under a Creative Commons License)

    How an attempt at ‘libel tourism’ rebounded on a Tanzanian tycoon

    A British citizen blogged about a Tanzanian media magnate involved in throwing her and her husband off their Tanzanian farm. He sued for libel in a British court. Dominic Burbidge explains.

    June 5, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • David Cameron

    Britain’s proposed online porn filters

    How do we strike the right balance between freedom of expression and child protection? Sarah Glatte explores a proposal by the British government.

    December 18, 2013 | Comments: 7
  • Members of the English Defence League march in Luton

    When and where should extremists be allowed to march?

    Protests held by far right groups in ethnically diverse areas are provocation, but banning them can have undesired effects. Josh Black looks at a ban on the English Defence League in East London.

    May 29, 2013 | Comments: 2
  • A Kenyan reads a burnt copy of the Standard newspaper at the printing press in the Kenyan capital Nairobi

    “If you rattle a snake…” The Kenyan government bites its media

    In 2006 the Kenyan police violently raided the offices and printing press of the Standard Group media organisation. What was the government afraid of seeing reported? Dominic Burbidge explores a revealing case.

    March 5, 2013 | Comments: 1
  • 6125014507_831e1cc19e_z

    Brazil confronts Google – and it’s personal

    A top Google executive was arrested in Brazil when the company refused to remove YouTube videos that made accusations against a local mayoral candidate. Felipe Correa discusses the case.

    November 1, 2012 | Comments: 2
  • Students in Singapore

    A university of less-than-liberal arts?

    Should Yale University refuse to operate in Singapore where human rights and free expression face significant restrictions? Katie Engelhart weighs the arguments for and against.

    October 14, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi

    Satire or sedition? Political cartoons in India

    Indian Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was recently arrested on sedition charges. Manav Bhushan discusses how an archaic section of India's penal code has been used to silence government critics.

    October 3, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • Wang Xiaoning

    Yahoo, free speech and anonymity in China

    In 2002 Wang Xiaoning was sent to prison for 10 years after Yahoo passed on personal information Chinese authorities used to identify him. Judith Bruhn explores a case of conflicting laws and moral expectations.

    October 1, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • Pussy Riot

    Pussy Riot, Putin’s Russia and the Orthodox Church

    Was punk band Pussy Riot’s anti-Putin performance in a Moscow church 'religious hatred hooliganism' or an artistic form of political dissent? Olga Shvarova considers the case.

    August 9, 2012 | Comments: 8
  • 'Hitler and the Germans Nation and Crime' Exhibition In Berlin

    Hitler’s Mein Kampf as satire

    The German comedian Serdar Somuncu recites extracts from Mein Kampf to highlight the absurdity of Hitler’s propaganda, writes Sebastian Huempfer.

    July 13, 2012 | Comments: 4
  • TO GO WITH AFP STORY "Japan-NKorea-educa

    The Japanese New History Textbook controversy

    A history textbook underplaying Japanese imperialism caused controversy domestically and internationally, write Ayako Komine and Naoko Hosokawa.

    July 13, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • Russian weapons specialist Igor Sutyagin

    The case of the Russian ‘spy’

    Igor Sutyagin, the Russian nuclear researcher sentenced to 15 years for espionage, found himself at the centre of a spy-swap deal in 2010, writes Olga Shvarova.

    July 10, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • The President Of The Republic Of South Africa Makes A State Visit To The UK

    Zuma and his spear

    A South African art gallery removed an explicit painting of President Jacob Zuma after pressure from the African National Congress, write Nimi Hoffmann and Maryam Omidi.

    June 25, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • Muslims Around The World Celebrate Eid al-Fitr

    The Iranian actress’s sex tape scandal

    A leaked sex video resulted in Iranian actress Zahra Amir Ebrahimi fleeing the country to avoid prosecution, writes Fatemeh Shams Esmaeili.

    June 12, 2012 | Comments: 6

More case studies

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.