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 neither make threats of violence nor accept violent intimidation.

Timothy Garton Ash
A personal introduction

The power of speech defines us as human beings. Language enables us to negotiate our differences in ways not available to most animals. Yet throughout history this power been used to animate us to kill other members of our own species. (more...)

Do you agree with this principle? Yes No


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    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.

    January 25, 2013 | 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.

    January 21, 2013 | Comments: 1
  • 3469305764_3e732b4ca8_b

    Reader’s comment

    We regularly highlight comments that have made an impression on us. Today's comes from user Martinned responding to Brian Pellot's discussion piece on the Innocence of Muslims controversy.

    October 5, 2012 | Comments: 9
  • Indonesian protesters

    Defending Islam and free speech

    FSD's Katie Engelhart sat in on this Frontline Club debate to discuss controversy surrounding the YouTube video Innocence of Muslims.

    October 4, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • Libya US consulate

    Has Innocence of Muslims ended the innocence of YouTube?

    Join us to debate the role internet platforms like YouTube should play in setting free speech agendas in your country, your language and across the world. Online editor Brian Pellot kicks off the discussion.

    September 26, 2012 | Comments: 16
  • iPhones

    When an iPhone can be dangerous

    The speed and ubiquity of mobile devices have changed the context of "hate speech" online, writes Peter Molnar.

    August 22, 2012 | Comments: 3
  • Pro - Lifers Mark The Fortieth Anniversary Of The Abortion Act

    Freedom of speech for anti-abortion protesters?

    A pro-life campaigner and a pro-choice activist go head-to-head in this debate about the rise of US-style anti-abortion protests outside clinics in the UK.

    June 6, 2012 | Comments: 2
  • Benesch bio photo

    Susan Benesch on dangerous speech

    In this interview with Timothy Garton Ash, Susan Benesch, senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, makes a distinction between hate speech and dangerous speech.

    March 22, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • Funeral of assassinated Turkish journalist Hrant Dink (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

    Courage and solidarity

    Exceptional individuals have risked and sometimes given their lives for free expression. Name them here.

    February 6, 2012 | Comments: 0

More discussions

Case studies

  • KKK_night_rally_in_Chicago_c1920_cph.3b12355

    The ‘Brandenburg test’ for incitement to violence

    In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court made history by ruling that, to merit conviction, the violence advocated must be intended, likely and imminent. By Jeff Howard.

    April 29, 2013 | Comments: 0
  • Video game

    RapeLay: a virtual rape game

    A Japanese video game that involved raping women was banned three years after its creation following an international outcry by women's groups, writes Judith Bruhn.

    April 11, 2012 | Comments: 17
  • BFI Chairman Greg Dyke Hosts Gala Dinner: 54th BFI London Film Festival

    The Jaipur Literature Festival

    Author Salman Rushdie cancelled his appearance at the Jaipur Literature Festival after being informed that "paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld" were out to kill him, writes Manav Bhushan

    March 13, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • 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

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.