and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(1949)—Article 19 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"
Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. The term "freedom of expression" is sometimes used synonymously but includes any act of seeking, receiving, and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.
Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that "everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "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". The version of Article 19 in the ICCPR later amends this by stating that the exercise of these rights carries "special duties and responsibilities" and may "therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary "[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others" or "[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals".
The First Amendment
) to the United States Constitution
prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion
, impeding the free exercise of religion
, abridging the freedom of speech
, infringing on the freedom of the press
, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble
or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances
. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights
. Initially, the First Amendment applied only to laws enacted by the Congress
, and many of its provisions were interpreted more narrowly than they are today. Beginning with Gitlow v. New York
(1925), the Supreme Court
applied the First Amendment to states—a process known as incorporation
—through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
. In Everson v. Board of Education
(1947), the Court drew on Founding Father Thomas Jefferson
's correspondence to call for "a wall of separation between church and State", though the precise boundary of this separation remains in dispute. Speech rights were expanded significantly in a series of 20th and 21st-century court decisions which protected various forms of political speech, anonymous speech, campaign financing, pornography, and school speech; these rulings also defined a series of exceptions to First Amendment protections
. The Supreme Court overturned English common law
precedent to increase the burden of proof for defamation
suits, most notably in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan
(1964). Commercial speech, however, is less protected by the First Amendment than political speech, and is therefore subject to greater regulation. The Free Press Clause protects publication of information and opinions, and applies to a wide variety of media. In Near v. Minnesota
(1931) and New York Times v. United States
(1971), the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protected against prior restraint
—pre-publication censorship—in almost all cases.
Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949)—Article 19 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"
George Orwell statue at the headquarters of the BBC. A defence of free speech in an open society, the wall behind the statue is inscribed with the words "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”, words from George Orwell's proposed preface to Animal Farm (1945).
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