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Oxygen of Freedom

Who has the right to free speech? Who has the right to offend? When does my joke turn into your insult? In five essays, Timothy Garton Ash examines the arguments.

Timothy Garton Ash introduces the subject of freedom of speech and why it is more important than ever in today's internet-connected world. Professor Garton Ash sets out the arguments for why we need free speech, including for the sake of diversity, good governance and the search for truth. He argues that as smartphones and the web change our communications, we need a set of principles which govern free speech more than ever as this essential human right comes under attack. Drawing on research behind his book on the subject, he identifies three main threats. The first is what he calls the heckler's veto: if you shout loudly enough you can restrict free speech. The second is the offensiveness veto: if you cry 'I'm offended' you can restrict free speech. The third is the assassin's veto: if you say that, we will kill you.

Produced by Nina Robinson

(Illustration provided by Luis Ruibal)

With thanks to the Aspen Institute and the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival for use of Monika Bickert interview.

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15 minutes

Last on

Mon 11 Apr 2016 13:45


10 Principles for Free Speech

10 Principles for Free Speech

Timothy Garton Ash on what needs to happen for free speech to work in our brave new world