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A Word about Free Speech

Discussion of Freedom of Speech usually focuses on the right enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.  But the basis for this right is much broader.  The right to Freedom of Speech is also outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, Article 19 of the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights and Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

It is universally recognized that Freedom of Speech includes:

  • the right to express, or disseminate, information and ideas; and
  • the right to seek information and ideas; and
  • the right to receive information and ideas; and
  • the right to impart information and ideas.

International, national and state standards also recognize that freedom of speech includes freedom of expression in any medium, whether it is oral, written, printed, through the internet or through art forms. This means that the protection of freedom of speech as a right includes not only the content, but also the means of expression.

In "On Liberty" John Stuart Mill wrote that "...there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered."

Suggested reading:

Andrew Puddephatt, Freedom of Expression, The essentials of Human Rights, Hodder Arnold  (2005)

On Liberty (1859) - John Stuart Mill