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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    EU versus intellectual freedom?

    In a bid to synchronise hate crimes, the EU is seeking unity amongst members states against the denial of historical injustices. Is this the EU versus member states’ appreciation of intellectual freedom? Luigi Cajani explains.

    June 19, 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
  • hate speech

    Nineteen arguments for hate speech bans – and against them

    Free speech scholar Eric Heinze identifies the main arguments for laws restricting hate speech and says none are valid for mature Western democracies.

    March 31, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • Aung sung hate speech

    Regulating hate speech: lessons for Asia

    Cherian George on how hate speech is gaining virulence in Asian countries such as Myanmar, and how peace-building workshops represent a positive step forward.

    March 31, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • Ahmed Akkari says "it was okay" that Jyllands-Posten printed cartoons

    From Muslim activist to free speech defender: the story of Ahmad Akkari and the Danish cartoon controversy

    Katie Engelhart speaks to Ahmad Akkari to find out why he apologised to one of the Danish cartoonists eight years after fuelling worldwide fury.

    September 25, 2013 | Comments: 0
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    When does hate speech become dangerous speech? Consider Kenya and Rwanda

    The forthcoming trial of Kenyan broadcaster Joshua Arap Sang poses vital questions about the connections between words and violence, argues Katherine Bruce-Lockhart.

    April 26, 2013 | Comments: 11
  • buildings in Zawiyah damaged in fighting 2011

    Free speech and the gun in Libya

    Libyan media are crippled by their Gaddafi legacy. Without new regulations and, above all, bravery to stand up to violent intimidation, freedom of speech remains a distant dream, writes Jerry Timmins.

    March 29, 2013 | Comments: 0
  • Aung San Suu Kyi Makes Election Debut As Myanmar Votes

    The practice of freedom

    Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi stresses the importance of free speech but emphasises the Buddhist idea of "right speech".

    January 31, 2013 | Comments: 1
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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
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    Why Rwanda and Libya need free speech – and media regulation.

    Jerry Timmins describes a new report on media in two post-conflict societies, and argues that countries like Britain should do more to support them.

    January 9, 2013 | Comments: 0
  • 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: 17
  • Carnations and placards are placed on the spot outside the Agos newspaper building during a commemoration to mark Dink's fifth death anniversary in Istanbul

    Combatting hate speech in Turkish media

    The Hrant Dink Foundation has run the Media Watch on Hate Speech project since 2009 to counter racist and discriminatory discourse in Turkish press. Project coordinators Melisa Akan and Nuran Agan explain the initiative.

    September 17, 2012 | Comments: 0

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: 0
  • 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
  • Julius Malema Appears In Court For Hate Speech

    Shoot the Boer: hate music?

    In 2011, a South African court banned the anti-apartheid song "Shoot the Boer" after ruling it hate speech, writes Nimi Hoffmann.

    July 26, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • 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
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    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.