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

  • 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: 0
  • '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: 3
  • 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
  • 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: 3
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

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.