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 require and create open, diverse media so we can make well-informed decisions and participate fully in political life.

Timothy Garton Ash
A personal introduction

Here is one of the most important reasons we need freedom of expression. How can we make good decisions on any issue unless we know the relevant facts and hear the arguments of others? How can we build strong, self-governing communities unless we listen to voices representing all who live in them?. (more...)

Do you agree with this principle? Yes No


  • 2014_Hong_Kong_new_year_march_10

    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.

    August 11, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • Al Jazeera

    Egypt: will the United States stand up for free speech abroad?

    Not if John Kerry’s visit to Cairo and the next day’s verdict in the Al-Jazeera trial are anything to go by, writes Max Gallien.

    June 30, 2014 | Comments: 1
  • Russia

    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.

    May 7, 2014 | 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.

    April 23, 2014 | 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.

    April 18, 2014 | Comments: 3
  • 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.

    March 21, 2014 | Comments: 1
  • kenyamediapicture

    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.

    February 14, 2014 | 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.

    January 27, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • BBCpress

    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.

    December 12, 2013 | Comments: 0
  • Thou shall not leak thumbnail

    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.

    October 8, 2013 | 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?

    September 17, 2013 | 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...

    July 5, 2013 | Comments: 0
  • Director Ang Lee poses with his Oscar for Best Director for his film "Life of Pi" at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood

    The best director censored

    Ang Lee’s winning Oscar speech was censored in China to remove his special thanks to Taiwan.

    June 28, 2013 | 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.

    June 27, 2013 | 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.

    June 21, 2013 | Comments: 1

More discussions

Case studies

  • 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
  • Brazilian journalists

    Should journalists need a diploma?

    Brazil’s Supreme Court renewed a law that requires journalists to hold a university degree in journalism. A currently discussed Amendment to the Constitution could further restrict the country’s media writes Felipe Correa.

    August 16, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • 6686068171_c4b0e8e800_b

    Kazeboon: Egypt’s anti-military campaign

    In 2011, a group of young Egyptians organised public film screenings to expose military violence against civilians, writes Hebatalla Taha.

    April 5, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • Silent Walk In Tribute to The Victims Of Shooting In Jewish School

    Broadcasting a massacre

    In March 2012, self-proclaimed jihadist Mohammed Merah strapped a camera to his chest before killing seven people in France. Al-Jazeera TV channel opted not to show the footage, writes Jeff Howard.

    April 2, 2012 | Comments: 2
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Orban Meets Merkel

    Hungary’s new media regulation

    In 2010, the Hungarian prime minister passed a series of laws, giving excessive control over all private media to the government, writes Peter Bajomi-Lazar, a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford.

    March 30, 2012 | Comments: 2
  • U.S. President Obama, Mexico's President Calderon and his wife Margarita toast during a dinner in Mexico City

    The Mexican journalist and the “alcoholic” president

    Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui was fired for publicly calling on President Felipe Calderón to clarify rumours that he suffered from alcoholism, writes Felipe Correa.

    March 14, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • Brazil

    Rede Globo & the 1989 Brazilian election

    Beyond Citizen Kane, a documentary on the 1989 Brazilian election, argues that broadcaster Rede Globo manipulated the montage in favour of one of the two remaining candidates, writes Felipe Correa.

    March 6, 2012 | Comments: 5
  • 109706978

    Death of a journalist in Pakistan

    Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad was found dead after publishing an article on the links between al-Qaida and Pakistan's military, writes Ayyaz Mallick.

    February 22, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • Turkey Prepares For National Elections

    The private life of a national hero

    A documentary depicting the Turkish Republic’s founder, Kemal Atatürk, as a "drunken debaucher" was seen as an attack on "Turkishness", write Irem Kok and Funda Ustek.

    February 21, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • A placard is pictured during a protest g

    Turkish journalists: Şık and Şener

    In March 2011, two prominent investigative journalists were arrested in Turkey because of their alleged ties to a terrorist organisation. Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener faced 15 years' imprisonment if they were convicted, write Funda Ustek and Irem Kok.

    February 17, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • Wenzhou train collision

    Wenzhou train collision

    On July 23, 2011, two high-speed trains traveling on the Yongtaiwen railway line collided near the eastern coastal city of Wenzhou killing 40 people and injuring 191. A week later, all traces of the train accident had disappeared from newspaper and television programmes, writes Amy Qin.

    February 15, 2012 | Comments: 2
  • Julian Assange Appears At Court To Fight Extradition Move

    Julian Assange: a journalist?

    In 2010, Wikileaks released its first tranche of classified US state department cables. If Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website, qualifies as a journalist then he would be protected under the first amendment, writes Katie Engelhart.

    February 10, 2012 | Comments: 4
  • South African President Thabo Mbeki (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

    Aids denialism in South Africa

    South African President Thabo Mbeki appealed to principles of free speech in his defence of Aids denialism. A case study by Casey Selwyn.

    February 10, 2012 | Comments: 6
  • Avian flu found In South Korea (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

    Bioterrorism and bird flu

    In December 2011, the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity asked the journals Science and Nature to redact details of a study about an easily transmitted form of the H5N1 virus for fear it could be misused by bioterrorists. Maryam Omidi considers whether the censorship request was valid.

    February 5, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • The human microphone at Zuccotti Park, New York

    The human microphone

    The Occupy Wall Street movement adopted "the human microphone" in response to its lack of a permit for the use of amplified sound on public property in New York City. The human microphone embodies the pluralistic nature of the movement itself and serves to enhance its message, writes Casey Selwyn.

    February 5, 2012 | Comments: 0

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.