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 allow no taboos in the discussion and dissemination of knowledge.

Timothy Garton Ash
A personal introduction

Freedom of expression helps us get closer to the truth. It allows us to hear all views and arguments, and test our own against them. We would be most unwise to rely on the received wisdom of our time. (more...)

Do you agree with this principle? Yes No


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Case studies

  • Flag of the Organization of American States

    Is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights setting regional standards?

    Laura Bernal-Bermudez examines a judgement that actually led to a change in the Chilean constitution

    July 5, 2015 | Comments: 0
  • 2416744097_3b23328c1e_b

    US Supreme Court strikes down law creating ‘buffer zone’ around abortion clinics

    In the case of McCullen v Coakley, the US Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling about restrictions on speech around abortion clinics. Max Harris explains.

    August 25, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • 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
  • Orlando Figes

    Orlando Figes and the anonymous poison pen

    What exactly was wrong with a historian publishing caustic anonymous reviews of his competitors' books on Amazon? Katie Engelhart explores the issues raised by a tragic-comic case.

    August 30, 2012 | Comments: 2
  • '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
  • Three Blind Brothers Survive on Aid in Gaza

    The importance of Braille literacy

    In 2010, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind almost closed its library because of funding issues. Yet some argue that those who can't read Braille are akin to illiterates, writes Katie Engelhart.

    July 6, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • armenian

    France’s Armenian genocide law

    In January 2012, the French Senate approved a law criminalising the denial of any genocide recognised by the state, writes Clementine de Montjoye.

    June 29, 2012 | Comments: 5
  • William Jennings Bryan At Scopes Trial

    Teaching creationism in US schools

    A new Tennessee law will permit teachers to discuss creationism alongside theories of evolution, writes Casey Selwyn.

    May 2, 2012 | Comments: 14
  • Activists Protest Internet Copyright Restrictions ACTA

    ACTA: Open agreement secretly arrived at?

    The secretive approach adopted by parties in negotiating the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement constrained the ability of the public to challenge limits on free expression, writes Graham Reynolds.

    April 25, 2012 | Comments: 2
  • Turkish PM Erdogan Holds Final Pre Election Rally

    Raising a “religious youth” in Turkey

    A new law allowing parents to send their children to Islamic schools at an earlier age has polarized Turkish society, write İrem Kök and Funda Üstek.

    April 18, 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
  • Britain National Archives Releases Classified Documents

    History reclassified as state secret: the case of Xu Zerong

    In 2002, historian Xu Zerong was sentenced to 13 years in jail for leaking state secrets. The classification of the leaked materials as "top secret" came only after he had been sentenced, writes Timothy Garton Ash.

    April 2, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • 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

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.