Freedom of speech

The notion of freedom of speech has been the subject of much discussion and public debate.  A recent opinion piece highlights the issues raised by any discussion of freedom of speech: 'We should not take freedom of speech for granted' by Katharine Gelber, SMH, 16 November 2011.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its preamble states:

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people…

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights deals with the right to participate in the democratic process, including freedom of speech:

Article 19

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

Protecting human rights in Australia produced by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre is a factsheet on civil and political rights and includes a case study about Pauline Hanson and freedom of speech (see page 8).

If you are interested in exploring freedom of speech as a human rights issue, you might want to read these magazine articles which are available on AGIS Plus if you have a library card for the State Library:

You can find many other articles by typing in 'freedom of speech'.

The Environmental Defender’s Office have written an excellent online publication Campaigning and the Law in New South Wales: A guide to your rights and responsibilities (23 August 2010) which explains how you can speak out in public without being sued for defamation. 

You might also want to read earlier posts that have discussed freedom of speech:


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