Thursday, January 19, 2012

Debating (and Teaching) the Freedom of Expression

Ken Kersch

Oxford’s Timothy Garton Ash has launched a global forum for the discussion of the basic principles of the freedom of expression. Amongst other things, the site sets out draft principles for debate, and – of special value – posts an array of well-chosen “case studies” of free expression controversies from around the world. The site is designed to allow for conversation in an array of languages. Ash (together with LSE Political Scientist Fawaz Gerges and pianist Jonathan Biss) recently participated in an informative discussion of the freedom of expression on the BBC’s Forum program “A World of Ideas.”

In the United States, we’ve had a robust dialogue on the nature and scope of the freedom of expression since at least 1919. Many of the questions raised by Ash will thus be familiar to us -- especially to First Amendment experts. But Ash’s site, and his BBC interview, set things out clearly, in a way that will be useful to many, particularly in our role as teachers. The case studies are well-chosen, timely, and accessible. They may be especially welcome to those interested in stimulating discussion of live, hard-fought free speech controversies 1) from around the world, that 2) have not (yet?) been reduced to judicial opinions.

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