The right to freedom of speech and expression
Concepts of freedom of speech can be found in early human rights documents.
England’s Bill of Rights 1689
granted 'freedom of speech in Parliament' and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
, adopted during the French Revolution
in 1789, specifically affirmed freedom of speech as an inalienable right.
The Declaration provides for freedom of expression in Article 11, which states that:
"The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law."
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
, adopted in 1948, states that:
"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."
Today freedom of speech, or the freedom of expression, is recognized in international and regional human rights law
. The right is enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights
, Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights
and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
Based on John Milton
's arguments, freedom of speech is understood as a multi-faceted right that includes not only the right to express, or disseminate, information and ideas, but three further distinct aspects:
- the right to seek information and ideas;
- the right to receive information and ideas;
- the right to impart information and ideas.
International, regional and national standards also recognize that freedom of speech, as the freedom of expression, includes any medium, be it orally, in written, in print, 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.
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