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


  • B7GjV_WCIAAvUON.jpg large

    Charlie Hebdo is still alive – and kicking

    Timothy Garton Ash on the first issue since the assassinations, and its Muhammad cartoon cover

    January 13, 2015 | Comments: 2
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    Against the assassin’s veto

    Timothy Garton Ash suggests a European media week of solidarity, including republication of Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

    January 8, 2015 | Comments: 0
  • hand on mouse

    Free to fantasise? Pornography and its harms.

    Jo Fidgen asks what the hard evidence is for negative effects of pornography on sexual behaviour.

    December 1, 2014 | Comments: 1
  • Salman Rushdie: 25 years after The Satanic Verses thumbnail

    Salman Rushdie: free speech, 25 years on

    25 years after the fatwa and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Salman Rushdie discusses with Timothy Garton Ash whether there is now more or less freedom of expression in Europe, worrying developments in India and his critical view of Edward Snowden.

    August 30, 2014 | Comments: 0
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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: 1
  • 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
  • Yale

    Jytte Klausen on Yale University and the Danish cartoons

    Professor Jytte Klausen analyses and criticises Yale University Press's decision to remove images of Muhammad from her scholarly book on the Danish cartoons controversy.

    April 17, 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
  • 552

    Combining freedom and diversity: the challenge of religious difference

    Legal philosopher Martha Nussbaum gave the 2013 Dahrendorf Lecture, exploring how to live with religious diversity.

    June 14, 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
  • 4990552886_084bcc8ef6_z

    Taming the gods: religion and politics

    At the 2013 Jaipur Festival, Ian Buruma, Reza Aslan, Ahdaf Souief and Timothy Garton Ash, in conversation with Shoma Chaudhury, talk about the relationship between religion and politics and how to deal with religious threats to free speech.

    April 5, 2013 | Comments: 0
  • 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: 1
  • jaipurliteraturefestival-new-image

    The writer and the state

    The relationship between writers and the state is complex, multifaceted and changing. At the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 a panel of experts explores some of the issues faced by writers around the world.

    March 15, 2013 | 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: 7
  • 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: 19
  • 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.