Right/Freedom of Expression/History

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Freedom of Expression

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What is the oldest source in any country that mentions this right? 🖉 edit

The ancient Greeks within the Athenian Democracy, using the words “parrhesia” and “isegoria” (dating back to the fifth century BCE) were the first to emphasize the freedom to speak candidly and to "say what one pleased" a subset of freedom of the future declaration of freedom of expression (Bejan 2019, 97). The freedom of expression is imperative to democracy as it “refers to the ability of an individual or group of individuals to express their beliefs, thoughts, ideas, and emotions about different issues free from government censorship” (Freedom Forum Institute 2020). From the ancient Greeks, “Parrhesia” specifically describes the freedom to say whatever one pleased, and a similar idea describing freedom of expression, “isegoria,” describes the right of citizens to publicly address and debate against the democratic assembly (Lu 2017, 4). “Isegoria” is derived from the root word “agora” which translates to marketplace, and thus the meaning of this version of freedom of expression addresses that of public speech. This right to “isegoria” was more heavily based in the ideas of equality of all men to have access to the government than for the principles of freedom (Bejan 2019, 99). On the other hand, “parrhesia” held a broader meaning. This idea is more about the right to speak freely or frankly. This word implies a willingness of the speaker to be open, honest, and courageous in dealing with the consequences of the sometimes controversial truth which he spoke while those who listened had to tolerate any offense taken from the speaker. Because of the courage and privilege necessary in truly enjoying “parrhesia,” it describes a form of licensed privilege. After the collapse of the Athenian democracy, however, the fundamental ideas of “parrhesia” are the more common and practiced bases of freedom of expression today in documents such as the American Constitution. “Isegoria” on the other hand took on the form of freedom of speech and debate within the legislative houses of government such as British Parliament and American Congress.


On Misconceptions Generated By Translating Parrhesia and Isegoria as “Freedom of Speech,” Chin-Yu Ginny Lu, 4, The University of Arizona, 2017 Tucson.

Two Concept of Freedom (Of Speech), Teressa M. Bejan, 97-99, Oxford University, 2019 Oxford.

What is Freedom of Expression, Freedom Forum Institute Editors, Freedom Forum Institute, 2020 Washington D.C.

What historical forces or events, if any, contributed to a widespread belief in its importance? 🖉 edit

Debates and movements for the protection of freedom of expression are a recent development that “scarcely arose before the revolutions of the eighteenth century" (Zoller 2009, 803). But one can see that it is frequently in response to oppressive governmental measures that opposition arises to promote freedom of expression for democratic society and its citizens from external censorship. The intended outcome of these revolutions was to ensure the citizen’s right “to freely speak one's mind, represent one's viewpoint, defend one's opinions, communicate one's ideas… without fear for life, liberty, or possessions, but with peace of mind and a firm certainty of freedom from government harassment…” (Zoller 2009, 803). There are five notable historical movements and events that helped contribute to the widespread belief of freedom of expression as a fundamental right: the Enlightenment, The American and French Revolutions, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Arab Spring.


The promotion of freedom of expression as a universal right was first established by the philosophes of the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries. Frederick of Prussia, Immanuel Kant, and Johann Gottlieb Fichte all wrote on the idea of freedom of expression, especially in how it relates to free thought and opinion. James Schmidt quoted Immanuel Kant in support of the claim that freedom of thought, however praiseworthy in its own right, is much more valuable when informed by the thoughts of others: “‘… but how much and how accurately would we think if we did not think, so to speak, in community with others to whom we communicate our thoughts and who communicate their thoughts to us!’” (Schmidt [quoting Kant] 1996, 30). Agreeing with this sentiment, Frederick of Prussia also expressed his wish “to rule over a noble, brave, freethinking people, a people that has the power and liberty to think and to act, to write and to speak, to win or to die” (Schmidt [quoting Frederick of Prussia] 1996, 89). At this point in history, freedom of expression, especially in a monarchical context, became a key component of Enlightenment thought, as it was determined that the right to possess and share one’s opinions was the mark of a civilized society.


Building upon Enlightenment philosophies, freedom of expression (or the lack thereof) played central roles in the American and French Revolutions of the late 18th centuries. However, how freedom of expression was expressed in each case manifested very differently.

In America, "as taxes were imposed without their consent, colonists believed their freedom of expression and representation was violated. Protests, petitions, and gatherings were quickly put down by government officials. Freedom of expression, speech, and the press were punishable and denied to many" (Charkins et. Al 2019, 35). The repression of what the colonists believed to be a fundamental right only exacerbated the situation and eventually led them to demand “the formation of a government that would promise protection of those inherent liberties" via the American Revolution (Pomerance 2016, 112). After the war, this eventually prompted the ratification of the First Amendment to the Constitution that confirmed that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (U.S. Constitution, 1791).

Conversely, while American efforts came from an institutionalized lack of freedom, the French struggle came from a surprising decision from King Louis XVI. In 1789, when he called a meeting of the Estates General, he began by “suspending censorship of publications, even allowing writings that criticized the monarchy…" (Pomerance 2016, 114). This afforded French people freedom of expression to a degree they had never seen before, and soon newspapers and pamphlets across France were calling for a democratic overhaul of the whole country. This top-down decision from the King paved a slightly untraditional path to revolution, especially in contrast to the Americans who were denied freedom of expression from their government. Louis had opened the floodgates, and just months after the first meeting, “there was little doubt that free speech and expression were high on the list of demands from the Frenchmen calling for change” (Pomerance 2016, 117). These sentiments were eventually listed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, in Articles 10 and 11 which state that “no one may be disturbed on account of his opinions, even religious ones, as long as the manifestation of such opinions does not interfere with the established Law and Order,” and “the free communication of ideas and of opinions is one of the most precious rights of man. Any citizen may therefore speak, write and publish freely, except what is tantamount to the abuse of this liberty in the cases determined by Law" (“Declaration of the Rights of Man”).


International protections of fundamental rights did not emerge until the late 20th century in response to the “barbarous acts” of World War II (Amnesty International). And in response to these acts, it became a goal of the newly founded United Nations to set a global standard for freedom and justice for everyone, regardless of nationality or citizenship. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted in 1948 and establishes a comprehensive list of rights and liberties that everyone is entitled to. Freedom of expression is guaranteed by Article 19 which 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” (United Nations 1948). While the UDHR is not a legally binding document, it was the first international agreement focused on the protection of basic human rights and freedoms.


The fall of the Berlin Wall was a major turning point in the history of freedom of expression and its applications. During the Cold War, Europe was split between a democratic West and a communist East, with a physical manifestation of this divide erected in Berlin by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Many basic freedoms and liberties were suppressed in the Eastern Bloc, and “human rights violations in East Germany centered mainly on freedom of movement, expression and association” (Human Rights Watch 1989). Before the fall, “the potential to express dissidence… [marked] the border between East and West," but after, East Berliners used their restored freedoms to express their opinions without fear of retribution (Zoller 2009, 806). The fall of the Berlin Wall was a major win for universal human rights, and it marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War that inspired similar democratic movements across the Eastern Bloc that eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.


Applications of human rights and freedoms will have to continue to adapt to societal changes. As recently seen with the Arab Spring uprisings, widespread access to the internet and social media channels that now allow near total freedom of expression on a global scale has reshaped how one can utilize this freedom for the promotion of democracy, but it has also raised questions as to how parameters of this right should be drawn in instances of dangerous or harmful views. Before the rise of the internet, “discussions focused on the idea of what a man was allowed to utter or write when he found himself to be at odds with an established orthodoxy…", but now, it is imperative that “national legislations should envisage legal instruments to carefully limit its application (when abusive), in those situations in which free speech becomes an obstacle for the free exercise of other fundamental rights” as free speech and expression can be shared on an international level (Racolța 2019, 8, 15). Although freedom of expression is now an expected right of democratic societies, it remains at the forefront of international discussions to determine how to both ensure the right itself for people deprived of it and to also protect people from abuses of free expression. 


Charkins, Jim, Michelle Herczog, and Thomas Herman. “Breaking Down the Silos: The American Revolution--A Story Well Told.” Social Studies Review 58 (January 2019): 25–42. https://search-ebscohost-com.uc.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=154271093&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

“Declaration of the Rights of Man.” Avalon Project. Accessed June 16, 2023. https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/rightsof.asp.

“EAST GERMANY.” Human Rights Watch World Report, 1989. https://www.hrw.org/reports/1989/WR89/Eastgerm.htm.

Pomerance, Benjamin. “First In, First Out: Promises and Problems of Free Expression in Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary Governments.” Maryland Journal of International Law 31, no. 1 (January 2016): 107–79. https://search-ebscohost-com.uc.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=122460887&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Racolța, Remus, and Andreea Verteș-Olteanu. 2019. “Freedom of Expression. Some Considerations for the Digital Age.” Jus et Civitas VI (LXX) (1): 7–16. https://search-ebscohost-com.uc.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=139539130&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Schmidt, James. What Is Enlightenment?: Eighteenth-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions. Philosophical Traditions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. https://search-ebscohost-com.uc.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=4657&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Amnesty International, April 11, 2023. https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/universal-declaration-of-human-rights/#:~:text=The%20UDHR%20was%20adopted%20by,for%20freedom%2C%20justice%20and%20peace.

United Nations General Assembly. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). New York: United Nations General Assembly, 1948.

Zoller, Elisabeth. "Foreword: Freedom of Expression: Precious Right in Europe, Sacred Right in the United States," Indiana Law Journal 84, no. 3 (Summer 2009): 803-808

What is the oldest written source in this country that mentions this right?


Afghanistan 🖉 edit

Article 31 of the 1964 Afghanistan Constitution states that “every Afghan shall have the right to express thoughts through speech, writing, illustrations as well as other means in accordance with provisions of this constitution” (University of Nebraska, “Constitution of Afghanistan,” 1964) .

In Afghanistan's 2004 constitution Article 34 explicitly protects the freedom of expression. With every Afghan having the right to “express through speech, writing, illustrations as well as other means in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.”


1964 Afghanistan Constitution: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=afghanenglish

2004 Afghanistan Constitution: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Afghanistan_2004?%20lang=en

Albania 🖉 edit

Article 197 of the 1928 Fundamental Statute of the Kingdom of Albania guaranteed freedom of speech in peacetime under ordinary circumstance, but left room for exceptions in wartime or under extraordinary conditions. Freedom of speech was also asserted in Article 53 of the 1976 Constitution. Article 22 of the 1998 Albanian constitution guarantees the freedom of expression.


1928 Fundamental Statute of the Kingdom of Albania: https://www.hoelseth.com/royalty/albania/albconst19281201.html

Albania Constitution (1976): https://data.globalcit.eu/NationalDB/docs/ALB%20The%20Constitution%20of%20the%20Peoples%20Socialist%20Republic%20of%20Albania%201976.pdf

Albania Constitution (1998): “Albania 1998 (Rev. 2016) Constitution.” Constitute. Accessed September 14, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Albania_2016?lang=en.

Algeria 🖉 edit

Article 19 of the 1963 Algerian Constitution states that “the Republic guarantees freedom of the press and of other means of information, freedom of association, freedom of speech and public intervention, and freedom of assembly”

Freedom of expression is currently guaranteed by the 52nd article of the 2020 Algeria constitution.


“The Algerian Constitution.” The Middle East journal 17, no. 4 (1963): 446–450.

“Algeria 2020 Constitution.” Constitute. Accessed September 14, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Algeria_2020?lang=en.

Andorra 🖉 edit

The Andorran constitution ensures freedom of expression and the freedom to share information in the 12th article of their constitution. This right was codified in 1993 and includes a prohibition on public censorship.

“Andorra 1993 Constitution.” Constitute. Accessed September 14, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Andorra_1993?lang=en.

Angola 🖉 edit

Article 22 of the 1975 Angolan Constitution states: "Within the framework of the realization of the basic objectives of the People's Republic of Angola, the law will ensure freedom of expression, assembly, and association." Freedom of expression is asserted in the 1992 Angola constitution, part II, article 32: "Freedom of expression, assembly, demonstration and all other forms of expression shall be guaranteed." Under chapter two, article 31-32 of the 2010 Angolan Constitution, freedom of expression is guaranteed along with other civil rights and freedoms considered fundamental.


1975 Angola Constitution: “The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Angola.” World Constitutions Illustrated, Heinonline. https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.journals/rsl2&i=197

1992 Angola Constitution: https://constitutionnet.org/sites/default/files/Angola%20Constitution.pdf

2010 Angola Constitution: Constitute. Accessed September 14, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Angola_2010?lang=en.

Antigua and Barbuda 🖉 edit

In Antigua and Barbuda the 1981 constitutions second chapter offers a broad variety of protections. They range from the freedom of expression to the protection from discrimination on the grounds of race.


“Republic of Antigua and Barbuda / República Del Antigua y Barbuda Constitution of 1981 Constituciones De 1981.” Antigua and Barbuda: Constitution, 1981: https://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/Antigua/antigua-barbuda.html.

Argentina 🖉 edit

In Argentina the 1853 constitution laid the groundwork for freedom of expression. "Freedom of speech, although not expressly granted by the Argentine Constitution as it is in the Constitution of the United States, is nevertheless impliedly recognized in Article 14, which guarantees freedom of the press and which provides that all inhabitants of the nation have the right to publish their ideas through the press without previous censorship; and in Article 33, which provides that the declarations, rights, and guarantees enumerated in the Constitution shall not be considered a denial of other rights and guarantees not enumerated but which arise from the principle of the sovereignty of the people and of the republican form of government." (Amadeo, 186-187)


Amadeo, Santos P.. Argentine Constitutional Law: The Judicial Function in the Maintenance of the Federal System and the Preservation of Individual Rights. New York Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press, 1943. https://doi-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/10.7312/amad90398

Armenia 🖉 edit

The 1990 Declaration of Independence of Armenia guaranteed freedom of speech. Article 24 of the 1995 Constitution of Armenia also guaranteed freedom of speech, using language that suggests modes of expression analogous to speech: "Everyone is entitled to assert his or her opinion. No one shall be forced to retract or change his or her opinion. Everyone is entitled to freedom of speech, including the freedom to seek, receive and disseminate information and ideas through any medium of information, regardless of state borders." This constitution was amended in 2005, and Article 27 of the version amended amended in 2005 specifies a guarantee of freedom of expression: "Everyone shall have the right to freely express his/her opinion. No one shall be forced to recede or change his/her opinion. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression including freedom to search for, receive and impart information and ideas by any means of information regardless of the state frontiers."


Armenian Declaration of Independence: https://www.gov.am/en/independence/

"Constitution of the Republic of Armenia" (1995): http://www.parliament.am/legislation.php?sel=show&ID=2425&lang=eng

"Constitution of the Republic of Armenia (with the Amendments of 27 November 2005)": http://www.parliament.am/legislation.php?sel=show&ID=1&lang=eng

Australia 🖉 edit

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission: "The Australian Constitution does not explicitly protect freedom of expression. However, the High Court has held that an implied freedom of political communication exists as an indispensable part of the system of representative and responsible government created by the Constitution. It operates as a freedom from government restraint, rather than a right conferred directly on individuals." Furthermore, the Australian Human Rights Commission sees freedom of expression as extant in common law, and described a presumption in favor of preservation of such rights, absent explicit claims by Parliament to the contrary: "A well-established principle of statutory interpretation in Australian courts is that Parliament is presumed not to have intended to limit fundamental rights, unless it indicates this intention in clear terms. This includes freedom of expression."


“Freedom of Information, Opinion and Expression.” The Australian Human Rights Commission. Accessed September 14, 2022. https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/rights-and-freedoms/freedom-information-opinion-and-expression.

Austria 🖉 edit

Article 13 of Austria’s 1867 “Basic Law on the General Rights of Nationals in the Kingdoms and Länder represented in the Council of the Realm” states that “Everyone has the right within the limits of the law freely to express his opinion by word of mouth and in writing, print, or pictorial representation. The Press may be neither subjected to censorship nor restricted by the licensing System. Administrative postal distribution vetoes do not apply to inland publication” (Basic Law of 21 December 1867) .


1867 Basic Law: https://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/au03000_.html

Azerbaijan 🖉 edit

In Azerbaijan’s 1995 constitution freedom of expression is protected via the 47th article on Freedom of Thought and Speech. It is accompanied by articles defending freedom of conscience, assembly, information and creative work.



Blaustein, Albert P., and Gisbert H. Flanz. Constitutions of the Countries of the World; a Series of Updated Texts, Constitutional Chronologies and Annotated Bibliographies. "Azerbaijan Republic, Booklet 2, 1996" Permanent ed. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y: Oceana Publications, 1971.

Bahrain 🖉 edit

According to Article 23 of the 1973 Constitution of Bahrain, "Freedom of speech and freedom to carry out scientific research shall be guaranteed. Every person shall have the right to express and propagate his opinion in words or in writing or by any other means, in accordance with the conditions and procedures specified by the law."

Chapter Three, Article 23 of the 2002 Bahrain Constitution with amendments through 2017 describes freedom of expression in the following way: "Freedom of opinion and scientific research is guaranteed. Everyone has the right to express his opinion and publish it by word of mouth, in writing or otherwise under the rules and conditions laid down by law, provided that the fundamental beliefs of Islamic doctrine are not infringed, the unity of the people is not prejudiced, and discord or sectarianism is not aroused."


“Bahrain Old Constitution (1973).” International Constitutional Law Project: https://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ba01000_.html

“Bahrain 2002 (Rev. 2017) Constitution.” Constitute. Accessed September 14, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Bahrain_2017?lang=en.

Bangladesh 🖉 edit

Article 39 of the 1972 Bangladesh Constitution states that “(1) Freedom or thought and conscience is guaranteed. (2) Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence-(a) the right of every citizen of freedom of speech and expression; and freedom of the press, are guaranteed."



Barbados 🖉 edit

Article 20 of the 1966 Barbados Constitution states: "20. 1. Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, and for the purposes of this section the said freedom includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interferences and freedom from interference with his correspondence or other means of communication. 2. Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision - a. that is reasonably required in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or b. that is reasonably required for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons or the private lives of persons concerned in legal proceedings, preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of the courts or regulating the administration or technical operation of telephony, telegraphy, posts, wireless broadcasting, television or other means of communication or regulating public exhibitions or public entertainments; or c. that imposes restrictions upon public officers or members of a disciplined force."



Belarus 🖉 edit

The Constitution of Belarus originally adopted in 1994 including Section II outlines the protected freedom of expression in Article 33.


1994 Constitution of the Republic of Belarus: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzby0006&id=4&men_tab=srchresults

1994 Constitution of the Republic of Belarus as amended in 1996: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL(2003)065-e

Belgium 🖉 edit

Article 20 of the 27 October 1830 Draft Constitution of Belgium asserted the right to opinion: "The freedom of opinion in all matters is guaranteed."

In Belgium freedom of expression is guaranteed by Article 14 of the 1831 constitution: "The freedom of religions, their public exercise, as well as the liberty of expressing their opinions on every matter, are guaranteed; reserving the right of repressing crimes committed in the exercise of these liberties."


English translation of the French text of the draft of the constitution of 27 October 1830 35 (2009): https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzbe0096&id=5&men_tab=srchresults

1831 Constitution of Belgium: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Belgium_1831

Belize 🖉 edit

Article 12 of the 1981 Constitution of Belize states, "Except with his own consent, a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference with his correspondence." However, the Constitution also articulates certain conditions under which exceptions to this might be necessary, including what might be necessary in the "interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; ... for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons or the private lives of persons concerned in legal proceedings, preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of the courts or regulating the administration or the technical operation of telephone, telegraphy, posts, wireless broadcasting, television or other means of communication, public exhibitions or public entertainments; or that imposes restrictions on officers in the public service that are required for the proper performance of their functions."


1981 Constitution of Belize: https://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/Belize/belize81.html

Benin 🖉 edit

Article 2 of the 15 February 1959 Constitution of the Republic of Dahomey guaranteed freedom of expression, conditioned by respect for public order.

Article 23 of Benin’s 1990 Constitution offers a similar guarantee: " Every person has the right to freedom of thought, of conscience, of religion, of creed, of opinion and of expression with respect for the public order established by law and regulations."


"Of the State and of Sovereignty," Republique du Dahomey, Constitution du 15 fevrier 1959 (1959): 57-57: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.cow/zzbj0032&id=3&collection=cow&index=#

1990 Constitution of the Republic of Benin: https://constitutionnet.org/sites/default/files/Benin%20Constitution%20-%20English%20Summary.pdf

Bhutan 🖉 edit

In The Kingdom of Bhutan all Bhutanese citizens are granted the right to free speech and expression under article 7 of the 2008 constitution. This does however only apply to those citizens of Bhutan.


Bhutan 2008 Constitution: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Bhutan_2008

Bolivia 🖉 edit

Article 145 of the 1826 Draft Constitution for the Republic of Bolivia states: "Every Person may communicate his thoughts, verbally or in writing, or publish them through the medium of the Press, 'without previous censorship; but under the responsibility which the Law may determine."


1826 Draft Constitution for the Republic of Bolivia: English text of the draft Constitution of 1826. 892 (2010) Title XI: Of Guarantees https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzbo0002&id=18&men_tab=srchresults

Bosnia and Herzegovina 🖉 edit

In the aftermath of the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Imperial Government wrote a constitution for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The relationship between the two political entities was described in Section 1 of the 1910 Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina: "Bosnia and the Herzegovina constitute a separate and homogeneous administrative territory, which, in conformity with the Law of the 22nd February, 1880 ... is subject to the responsible administration and control of the Imperial and Royal Joint Ministry." According to Section 12 of the 1910 Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, "The right to express his opinion freely, verbally, in writing, print, or illustration is granted to every individual, without prejudice to the legal regulations dealing with the abuse of this right."

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constitution adopted in 1995 lists freedom of expression as one of the thirteen rights afforded to any person that enters the territory. It is listed among rights like the right to life, right to marry and the right not to be subject to slavery.


1910 Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina: British and Foreign State Papers (1912) https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/bfsprs0105&id=549&men_tab=srchresults#

“Bosnia and Herzegovina 1995 (Rev. 2009) Constitution.” Constitute. Accessed September 14, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Bosnia_Herzegovina_2009?lang=en.

Botswana 🖉 edit

According to Article 12 of the 1966 Botswana Constitution:

"(1) Except with his or her own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his or her freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference with his or her correspondence. (2) Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision— (a) that is reasonably required in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or (b) that is reasonably required for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons or the private lives of persons concerned in legal proceedings, preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of the courts, regulating educational institutions in the interests of persons receiving instruction therein, or regulating the technical administration or the technical operation of telephony, telegraphy, posts, wireless, broadcasting or television; or (c) that imposes restrictions upon public officers, employees of local government bodies, or teachers, and except so far as that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society."


1966 Constitution of Botswana: https://botswanalaws.com/consolidated-statutes/constitution-of-botswana

Brazil 🖉 edit

Article 179 of the 1824 Political Constitution of the Empire of Brazil stated: "All are permitted to communicate their thoughts by words, writings and by publications in print without dependence upon censorship, the while they must respond for the abuses they may commit in the exercise of this right, in the cases and manner to be determined by law."

Freedom of expression can also be found in Article 5 of the 1988 Brazil Constitution.


1824 Political Constitution of the Empire of Brazil : English original text of the Constitution of 1824 250 (2010) Title VIII: General Provisions and Guarantees of the Civil and Political Rights of Brazilian Citizens https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzbr0040&id=14&men_tab=srchresults

“Federal Supreme Court Constitution - Stf.jus.br.” Accessed September 14, 2022. https://www.stf.jus.br/arquivo/cms/legislacaoConstituicao/anexo/brazil_federal_constitution.pdf.

Brunei 🖉 edit

According to the U.S. Department of State, as of 2022 in Brunei: "Under the law and emergency powers, the government restricted freedom of expression, including for media."



Bulgaria 🖉 edit

Article 79 of the 1879 Tarnovo Constitution guaranteed freedom of the press. Article 88 of the 1947 Constitution of the People's Republic of Bulgaria guaranteed freedom of speech and of the press, as did Article 54 of the 1971 Constitution of the People's Republic of Bulgaria. Bulgaria’s constitution adopted in 1991 provides explicit protection of freedom of expression.


1879 Constitution of the Principality of Bulgaria: English translation of the Bulgarian original text of the Constitution of 1879 6 (2014) Chapter XI!: The Subjects of the Principality of Bulgaria: https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzbg0031&id=8&men_tab=srchresults

1947 Constitution of the People's Republic of Bulgaria: "Chapter VIII: Basic Rights and Obligations of Citizens," Constitution of the People's Republic of Bulgaria : 241-244 https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.cow/zzbg0007&id=9&collection=cow&index=

1971 Constitution of the People's Republic of Bulgaria: "Chapter III: Basic Rights and Obligations of the Citizens," [Constitution of the People's Republic of Bulgaria] (1971): 14-22 https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzbg0021&id=17&men_tab=srchresults

“Bulgaria 1991 (Rev. 2015) Constitution.” Constitute. Accessed September 14, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Bulgaria_2015?lang=en.

Burkina Faso 🖉 edit

Article 13 of the 1970 Constitution of Upper Volta stated: "Citizens shall enjoy freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, procession and demonstration in the conditions laid down by law. The exercise of these rights shall be limited only by the freedom of others, security and public order"

Burkina Faso’s constitution protected freedom of expression when it was adopted in 1991 in the forms of opinions, press and the right to free information in article 8 of the original constitution.


1970 Constitution of Upper Volta: "Title II: Fundamental Rights and Duties of Man and the Citizen," Constitution of Upper Volta (1970): 1006-1008 https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzbf0015&id=3&men_tab=srchresults

“Burkina Faso 1991 (Rev. 2015) Constitution.” Constitute. Last modified 2015. Accessed September 16, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Burkina_Faso_2015?lang=en.

Burundi 🖉 edit

Article 31 of the 2005 Burundi Constitution states: "The liberty of expression is guaranteed. The State respects the liberty of religion, thought, consciousness and opinion."

Burundi's current constitution was put in place in May of 2018. The new constitution guarantees freedom of expression in article 31.


"Burundi 2005 Constitution": https://constituteproject.org/constitution/Burundi_2005

“Burundi 2018 Constitution.” Constitute. Last modified 2018. Accessed September 16, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Burundi_2018?lang=en.

Cambodia 🖉 edit

According to Article 9 of the 1947 Constitution: "Every Cambodian is free to speak, write, print, and publish. He may, either by way of the press or any other means express, spread, defend every opinion so long as he makes no unauthorized use of that right or does not tend to disturb the public order."

In the Kingdom of Cambodia freedom of expression is currently protected by the 41st article of the 1993 constitution. The nation is a kingdom the however, king reigns but does not govern and the citizens are afforded a plethora of protected rights.


1947 Cambodia Constitution: Advocatetanmoy Law Library. https://advocatetanmoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/cambodia-constitution-1947.pdf

1993 Cambodia Constitution as revised up to 1999: https://pressocm.gov.kh/en/archives/9539

Cameroon 🖉 edit

The 1961 Cameroon Constitution offered a general guarantee of those rights in the UDHR (of which one is freedom of expression): "The Federal Republic of Cameroon is democratic, secular and social. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law. It affirms its adherence to the fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of the United Nations." However, the 1961 Constitution did not discuss the right to freedom of expression specifically.

Freedom of expression is specifically guaranteed in the 1972 Cameroon Constitution: "the freedom of communication, of expression, of the press, of assembly, of association, and of trade unionism, as well as the right to strike shall be guaranteed under the conditions fixed by law"


1961 Constitution of Cameroon: https://condor.depaul.edu/mdelance/images/Pdfs/Federal%20Constitution%20of%20Cameroon.pdf

1972 Constitution of Cameroon as revised up to 2008: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Cameroon_2008?lang=en

Canada 🖉 edit

In Canada the "Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms" of 1982 a part of the Canadian constitution that set in stone the fundamental rights and freedoms afforded to all Canadians. It was preceded by the Constitution of Canada adopted in 1867, but the constitution makes no such explicit protection for the freedom of expression.


Canadian Heritage. “Government of Canada.” Canada.ca. / Gouvernement du Canada, March 24, 2022. Last modified March 24, 2022. Accessed September 20, 2022. https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/how-rights-protected/guide-canadian-charter-rights-freedoms.html.

Cape Verde 🖉 edit

In Cape Verde Freedom of expression is protected by the 1980 constitution through Title 2, Article 27. The constitution further protects freedom of expression in articles 45 and 46.


“Cape Verde 1980 (Rev. 1992) Constitution.” Constitute. Last modified 1992. Accessed September 20, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Cape_Verde_1992?lang=en.

Central African Republic 🖉 edit

Article 13 of the 1994 Constitution reads: "The freedom to inform, to express and diffuse opinions by speech, the pen and image, under reservation of respect of the rights of others, is guaranteed."

This right is also found can be found in the 2016 Constitution: "The freedom to inform, to express and to disseminate one's opinions by speech, the pen and the image and any other means of communication under reserve of respect for the rights of others, is guaranteed individually and collectively."


Constitution of the Central African Republic, Adopted on 28 December 1994, promulgated on 14 January 1995: https://g7plus.fd.uc.pt/pdfs/CentralAfricanRepublic.pdf

“Central African Republic 2016 Constitution.” Constitute. Last modified 2016. Accessed September 20, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Central_African_Republic_2016?lang=en.

Chad 🖉 edit

According to Article 5 of the 1959 Constitution of Chad, "citizens have the right to associate, to petition and to manifest freely their thoughts. The exercise of these rights has as its only limit the rights or the freedom of others and public security."

Chad's 2018 Constitution offers freedom of expression in article 28. However, the same article offers the following condition: "The law determines the conditions of their exercise."


1959 Chad Constitution: "Title I: Of the State, of Sovereignty and of the Public Freedoms," Constitution of the Republic of Chad 31 March 1959 (1959): 3-4 https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zztd0003&id=3&men_tab=srchresults

“Chad 2018 Constitution.” Constitute. Last modified 2018. Accessed September 20, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Chad_2018?lang=en.

Chile 🖉 edit

Article 11 of the 1818 Provisional Constitution of Chile offered guarantees relevant to freedom of expression, though with noteworthy limitations: "Every man has the freedom to publish his ideas and to examine the subjects [objetos] within his scope [alcances], as long as he does not offend the individual [particular] rights of the members of society, the public tranquility and the Constitution of the State, [the] conservation of the Christian religion, [and the] purity of its moral and sacred dogmas; and as a consequence, the freedom of [the] press must be permitted, in accordance with the regulation that the Senate or [the] Congress will establish [formara] for it."

Article 10.3 of the 1925 Chile Constitution offered a more general iteration of the freedom of expression available to inhabitants of Chile: "Freedom to express, without prior censorship, opinions, orally or in writing, through the medium of the press or in any other form; yet without prejudice to the liability of answering for offenses and abuses that may be committed in the exercise of this liberty in the manner and in the cases as determined by law."

Article 19.12 of the 1980 Constitution, as revised up to 2021, offered a similar formulation of freedom of expression: "Freedom to express opinions and to inform, without prior censorship, in any form and by any means, notwithstanding the liability for crimes and abuses committed in the exercise of these freedoms, in accordance with the law, which shall be of qualified quorum."


Provisional Constitution of 1818: English translation of the Spanish original text of the Provisional Constitution of 1818. 5 (1818) Chapter I: On the Rights and Duties of Man in Society https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzcl0112&id=5&men_tab=srchresults

Chile 1925 Constitution: https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Chile_1925?lang=en

“Chile 1980 (Rev. 2021) Constitution.” Constitute. Last modified 2021. Accessed September 20, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Chile_2021?lang=en.

China 🖉 edit

The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China of 1982 explicitly protects the freedom of expression.

“People's Republic of China.” Constitution of the People's Republic of China. Accessed September 20, 2022. http://www.npc.gov.cn/englishnpc/constitution2019/201911/1f65146fb6104dd3a2793875d19b5b29.shtml.

Colombia 🖉 edit

In Colombia freedom of expression is constitutionally protected by articles 46 and 47 of the constitution originally adopted in 1995.

“Conoce Nuestro Micrositio.” Contador De Visitas Gratis. Last modified 2021. Accessed September 20, 2022. https://www.corteconstitucional.gov.co/.

Comoros 🖉 edit

In Comoros freedom of expression, thought, assembly and cultural creation are all protected by article 21 of the nation’s constitution adopted in 2018. “Comoros 2018 Constitution.” Constitute. Last modified 2018. Accessed September 20, 2022. https://constituteproject.org/constitution/Comoros_2018?lang=en.

Costa Rica 🖉 edit

The Costa Rican constitution officially guaranteed freedom of expression (that does not harm third parties or infringe on the law) in article 28 of the 1949 constitution.

“Costa Rica 1949 (Rev. 2011) Constitution.” Constitute Project. Last modified 2011. Accessed September 20, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Costa_Rica_2011?lang=en.

Croatia 🖉 edit

Croatia guarantees freedom of expression in article 38 of the 1991 constitution.

“Croatia 1991 (Rev. 2013) Constitution.” Constitute. Last modified 2013. Accessed September 28, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Croatia_2013?lang=en.

Cuba 🖉 edit

While the 1976 constitution protected freedom of expression that promoted the socialist society of Cuba, the 2019 constitution fully guarantees freedom of expression.

“Cuba 2019 Constitution.” Constitute. Last modified 2019. Accessed September, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Cuba_2019?lang=en.

Cyprus 🖉 edit

Cyprus protected freedom of expression with article 19 of their 1960 constitution.

“Cyprus 1960 (Rev. 2013) Constitution.” 2013. Constitute. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Cyprus_2013?lang=en.

Czech Republic 🖉 edit

The current constitution of 1992 superseded the 1960 constitution upon its adoption by the Czech national council. Both constitutions however, protected freedom of expression.

“Czech Republic 1993 (Rev. 2013) Constitution.” 2013. Constitute. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Czech_Republic_2013?lang=en.

Democratic Republic of the Congo 🖉 edit

In The Democratic Republic of the Congo expression in the form of speech, print, thought and pictures with respect to the law is protected by article 21 of the 2005 constitution.

“Congo (Democratic Republic of the) 2005 (Rev. 2011) Constitution.” Constitute. Last modified 2011. Accessed September 20, 2022. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo_2011?lang=en.

Denmark 🖉 edit

Denmark has protected freedom of expression since their 1953 constitution was adopted.

“Denmark's Constitution of 1953 - Constituteproject.org.” 2022. Accessed September 28. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Denmark_1953.pdf?lang=en&lang=en.

Djibouti 🖉 edit

Djibouti guaranteed freedom of expression in the 15th article of their 1992 constitution.

“Djibouti 1992 (Rev. 2010) Constitution.” 2010. Constitute. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Djibouti_2010?lang=en.

Dominica 🖉 edit

Freedom of expression was first guaranteed by the revised laws of Dominica in 1990

Dominican Republic 🖉 edit

The Dominican Republic's first constitution of 1844 protected freedom of expression.

East Timor 🖉 edit

Section 40 of the 2002 East Timor Constitution states: "1. Every person has the right to freedom of speech and the right to inform and be informed impartially. 2. The exercise of freedom of speech and information shall not be limited by any sort of censorship. 3. The exercise of rights and freedoms referred to in this Section shall be regulated by law based on the imperative of respect for the Constitution and the dignity of the human person."

Also relevant to freedom of expression is the defense of freedom of the press in Section 41 of the 2002 East Timor Constitution.


2002. Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. http://timor-leste.gov.tl/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Constitution_RDTL_ENG.pdf.

Ecuador 🖉 edit

Article 64 of the 1830 Ecuador Constitution guaranteed freedom of the press: "Every citizen can express their thoughts and publish them freely through the press with respect for decency and public morals, and always subject to the liability of the law."

Article 102 of the 1869 Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador offered a more complete defense of freedom of expression: "The expression of ideas, whether verbal, written, or printed, is free, without previous censure, provided religion, morality, and decency are respected; but any one who. may abuse this right shall be punished according to the law, and by the ordinary judges, the jury of the press being abolished."

Section III, Article 17, Part 8 of the 1878 Constitution of Ecuador guaranteed verbal expression of one's ideas as well as printed expression.


1830 Constitution of Ecuador: English translation of the original Constitution of 1830. 15 (2017) Part VIII: Civil Rights and Guarantees https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzec0081&id=15&men_tab=srchresults

1869 Constitution of Ecuador: English translation of the original Constitution of 1869 1244 (2010) Title XI: Of Guarantees https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzec0003&id=16&men_tab=srchresults

1878 Constitution of Ecuador: Spanish text of the constitution of 1878 414 (2017) Section III: Guarantees https://heinonline-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/HOL/Page?collection=cow&handle=hein.cow/zzec0056&id=1&men_tab=srchresults

Egypt 🖉 edit

According to Article 14 of Royal Decree No.42 (1923): “Freedom of opinion shall be ensured. Every person may express their thoughts in saying, writing, depiction, or otherwise in consistency with the law.”


1923. Royal Decree No. 42 of 1923: https://constitutionnet.org/sites/default/files/1923_-_egyptian_constitution_english_1.pdf ... further results

Is the identification of this right associated with a particular era in history, political regime, or political leader? 🖉 edit

Freedom of expression is a relatively new term, however, not a new concept. For much of its history, the individual freedoms covered under freedom of expression were established in isolated contexts throughout time and eventually translated into this overarching concept of freedom of expression. The identification of this freedom is a product of many contributions over several centuries, resulting in associations to multiple eras and contributors: yet remaining limited to being a fundamental element of democratic regimes. The composition of freedom of expression possesses two elements associated with the present-day interpretation. The first element is the origins of the foundational freedoms covered under the overall “Freedom of expression.” The second element is the transition from individual freedoms to the broader notion of expression. Today, it is universally understood that freedom of expression includes freedom of speech and freedom of the press. While freedom of speech has origins in ancient Greece through the concept of Parrhêsia, (Konstan, 2012, 1), freedom of the press and expression have a significant concrete appearance through the works of John Milton in Areopagitica(1644). In the book Free Speech and Democracy in Ancient Athens, Arlene Saxonhouse discusses how Milton “Protests the licensing of books and the governmental restraints thereby placed on free expression in published works… Milton argues in a series of allusions to the world of ancient Athens, tying Milton to the values expressed by the ancient Athenian, connecting freedom of speech to human virtue and political freedom’’ (Saxonhouse 2005, 20). The next significant development to freedom of expression was the ratification of the Bill of Rights into the U.S. Constitution; a document that drew inspiration from the English Magna Carta (1215). Although the Magna Carta did not explicitly mention free speech, it did guarantee certain liberties that would be conceptualized into modern democracy and go on to inspire the Bill of Rights, i.e The First Amendment (WEX Definitions Team, 2020). Thus, The First Amendment became an important development in what would come to be called freedom of expression. However, it wouldn't be until 1948 that “freedom of expression” was officially coined and universally recognized. Following World War II, freedom of information was declared a fundamental human right but the language of “freedom of expression” was not agreed upon until it was drafted and entered into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by an American committee (Kleinwächter, 2022). Between The First Amendment and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, innovations such as the telegraph and radio broadcasting proposed new obstacles to information sharing beyond borders. This led to multiple treaties and conventions discussing the censoring of content shared internationally, thus challenging freedom of speech and press, however, no explicit mention of freedom of expression was mentioned in these international treaties(Kleinwächter, 2022). Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this includes the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information through any media regardless of frontiers.” It was here that the individual freedoms within the First Amendment translated into the united concept of “freedom of expression” and then became internationally recognized into law through the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1966 with the same language used in Article 19 (Kleinwächter, 2022). With a long evolution and multiple developments contributing to the concept today, the identification of this freedom is not limited to a single era, but rather significant to several. .. The associations of these eras parallel the significance of the identification of this freedom in relation to a specific type of regime. These dates, as well as the overall notion of this freedom, are important to the development and expansion of democracy and democratic institutions. This element of democracy facilitates open debate, proper consideration of different perspectives, and the negotiation and compromise necessary for consensual policy decisions (Freedom House, 2023). Without this freedom, true democracy would not exist as “the suppression of ideas is inconsistent with the concept that a democratic society bases its decisions on full and open discussion of all points of view (Bogen, 1983, 464).” Expressing content or discontent for a government, policy, or principle, as well as proposing solutions or critiques, amongst expressions of other topics, allows for the democratic process to function for its intended purpose and is profoundly within the right of an individual to do so as a protected human right. Unlike the association to a single regime type, this freedom is not limited to a single political leader. Instead, multiple figures, often not in positions of leadership, opposed the censoring of opinions and ideas, and acted as the main contributors to the expansion of freedom of expression. Those who drafted the Magna Carta opposed the monarchy of King John; Milton opposed government censorship, and the Framers of the Constitution opposed absolute power by a single ruler. All of these developments over time resulted in the association to several contributors who led us to the contemporary understanding of this freedom. This long evolutionary process with collaborative efforts from key points and figures throughout history has resulted in the identification of this right being tied to multiple eras and figures, yet to only one regime type.


Konstan, David. 2012. “The Two Faces of Parrhêsia: Free Speech and Self-Expression in Ancient Greece.” Antichthon 46. Cambridge University Press: 1–13. doi:10.1017/S0066477400000125.

Saxonhouse, Arlene W. 2005. Free Speech and Democracy in Ancient Athens. Cambridge University Press. 11-37

WEX Definitions Team. 2020 “Magna Carta.” LII / Legal Information Institute. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/magna_carta#:~:text=The%20writers%20of%20the%20Bill.

Bogen, David S. 1983. “The Origins of Freedom of Speech and Press” 42. Maryland Law Review. 429-465. https://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2503&context=mlr

Freedom House. “Freedom of Expression.” 2023. https://freedomhouse.org/issues/freedom-expression

Kleinwächter, Wolfgang. 2022. “A History of the Right to Freedom of Expression.” Observer Research Foundation. https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/a-history-of-the-right-to-freedom-of-expression/

Is there another noteworthy written source from the past that mentions this right? 🖉 edit

This right is mentioned in several historical noteworthy written sources, some of which include John Locke's extremely influential and fundamental Second Treatise of Government. Along that same vein, noted philosophers have written commentaries on laws, freedoms, and political theory; these include works by Michael Foucault, particularly in his lecture series at Berkeley, Montesquieu in his commentary the Spirit of the Laws, Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, and John Stuart Mill's noteworthy work On Liberty.

Many international treaties, charters, and conventions also work to avidly incorporate the freedom of expression in its foundations. The UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.


John Locke, Second Treatise of Government

What specific events or ideas contributed to its identification as a fundamental right? 🖉 edit

The expression of thoughts, ideas, art, entertainment, and more started long before their rights were explicitly proclaimed or protected. The oldest piece of art archeologists have discovered dates back 45,000 years (Cascone, 2021). Archeologists have found objects from 400,000 years ago that “would probably have required a level of symbolic communication close to that of language.” Hunter gatherer societies had religion of their own (Peoples et al., 263, 2016). But while humans have been expressing themselves for millennia, the protection of their expression has not always been existent – especially when the content of their expression offends or hurts another party in some way.

David Konstan cited Arnaldo Momigliano, who explained: “In the second part of the fifth century and during the greater part of the fourth century every Athenian citizen had the right to speak [in the assembly] unless he disqualified himself by certain specified crimes.’ This freedom was, according to Momigliano, ‘an Athenian fifth-century idea’, and the term that best expressed it was parrhêsi” (Konstan, 1, 2012). However, as David Konstan argues, parrhesia was less of a “right” and more of a “license to express one’s views, whatever the context.” Athenian citizens understood it as “an expectation, a feature of social life.” Konstan compares the ideal to an American citizen who proclaims “This is a free country, isn’t it?” in response to “an attempt to silence them” (Konstan, 4, 2012). However, as evidenced by the trial of Socrates, this ideal is not always protected by law when the idea contradicts beliefs espoused by the community – for Socrates’ case, questioning the gods and thus “corrupting the youth.” On this trial, some “authors affirm the view of Athens as fundamentally tolerant, with Socrates’ trial, ‘the decision to prosecute an old man for saying and doing what he had been saying and doing for so many years,’ as an aberration, perhaps brought about by ‘the wounds of recent history’”, the recent history being the violent tyranny of the Thirty set in place by the victorious Spartans after the Peloponnesian War (Saxonhouse, 102, 2006). Socrates’ teaching of Critias caused a stir in Athens, likely contributing to his prosecution more on his association rather than the content of the expression itself.

The events of the Enlightenment were essential to rights themselves and the development of expression among them. Expression can be understood as the dissemination of someone’s thoughts, thus touching on the ideals of individual ownership of self and self-agency. Locke defines freedom in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding as the “Power in any Agent to do or forbear any particular action, according to the determination or thought of the mind, whereby either of them is preferred to the other” (Locke, 303, 1690). Voltaire was one of the more prolific writers of the era, consistently firing back publicly and publishing satires. He was one of the most influential thinkers in the Enlightenment because of his willingness to challenge the status quo and stretch speech rights into the categories of the offensive, which inspired critique and dissension from others. In one of his dialogues, Voltaire said, “People say stupid and insulting things, but must speaking be forbidden? Everybody can write what they think in my country at their own risk…If it finds that you have spoken foolishly, it boos you; if seditiously, it punishes you; if wisely and nobly, it loves you and rewards you…Without the freedom to explain what one thinks, there is no freedom among men” (Voltaire, 140, 1994). The Enlightenment transformed the conception of rights for the Western world, and led ultimately to the important declarations of the rights to expression found in revolutionary documents.

The first guarantee of expression was speech in the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Among the guarantees were rights found in the American First Amendment, including “the right to petition and freedom of speech and debate” (Vile, “English Bill of Rights”, 2009). The Massachusetts Body of Liberties in 1641 and the adoption of the Virginia Bill of Rights were early American colonial legislatures’ expression of the rights of free press and speech (FIRE, “History of Free Speech”, 2022). The first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States include the First Amendment – that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (National Archives, “The Bill of Rights: A Transcription”, 2023). All of these are tenets of free expression – they protect the people from prosecution of the state for expression or behaviors that counter state interests. In France, similar revolutionary ideals took form in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in 1789, which states that “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law” (Yale Law Library, “Declaration of the Rights of Man – 1789”, 2008). These early expressions of the law include important things – that the government cannot restrict it, but most agreed that there are circumstances where free expression does not apply.

To understand the idea of free expression, it is important to understand accepted exceptions to the expressed First Amendment right. Among these, the government has permitted laws which prohibit certain types of speech in specific times, places, and locations – such as imposing limits on the noise level of speech, capping the number of protesters who may occupy a given forum, barring early-morning or late-evening demonstrations, and restricting the size or placement of signs on government property” (O’Neill, “Time, Place, Manner Restrictions”). Any restriction of this kind has to pass “a three-prong test outlined by the Supreme Court in Ward v. Rock Against Racism (1989)…The regulation must be content neutral…It must be narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest…It must leave open ample alternative channels for communicating the speaker’s message.” In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that New York City officials could control the volume of amplified music at rock concerts in Central Park without violating the First Amendment” (Hudson, “Ward v. Rock against Racism, 2009). The government may also restrict speech which falls into the categories of “incitement, defamation…obscenity, child pornography…and threats” (Volokh, “Permissible Restrictions on Expression”, 2023). The Supreme Court ruled on restrictions of incitement – defined as “speech [that] is forbidden because it incites, or is likely to lead to, violence or illegal actions” – in the landmark decision in Brandenburg v Ohio (Vile, “Incitement to Imminent Lawless Action”, 2009). In this case, Brandenburg, a member of the KKK, was convicted under Ohio law for statements that “alluded to the possibility of “revengeance” (sic) in the event that the federal government and Court continued to “‘suppress the white, Caucasian race.” The Supreme Court overturned the conviction and held that “advocacy could be punished only ‘where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action’” (Walker, “Brandenburg v Ohio”, 2009). The second exception to free expression is defamation. Defamation deals with two types of tort action “that encompasses false statements of fact that harm another’s reputation”: libel and slander. Libel “generally refers to written defamation, while slander refers to oral defamation, though much spoken speech that has a written transcript also falls under the rubric of libel.” In New York Times Co. v Sullivan, the New York Times published an article with factual errors about protests occurring in Alabama. In the case, “The Court reasoned that ‘erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate’ and that punishing critics of public officials for any factual errors would chill speech about matters of public interest. The high court also established what has come to be known as ‘the actual malice rule’.” This rule says that the offended party “must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the speaker made the false statement with ‘actual malice’ — defined as ‘knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not’” (Hudson, “Defamation”, 2020). The third and fourth exceptions are obscenity and child pornography. Obscenity “refers to a narrow category of pornography that violates contemporary community standards and has no serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value” (Hudson, “Obscenity and Pornography”, 2009). The test for obscenity comes from Miller v California, a case where “the Supreme Court upheld the prosecution of a California publisher for the distribution of obscene materials.” The test in this case has three parts: “‘Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value’” (Hudson, “Miller v. California”, 2009). The last exception to the first amendment is true threats. The test case for this exception is Virginia v Black, where a statute banning crossburning was upheld in the state of Virginia. The court’s reasoning was “‘True threats’ encompass those statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals. . . . Intimidation in the constitutionally proscribable sense of the word is a type of true threat, where a speaker directs a threat to a person or group of persons with the intent of placing the victim in fear of bodily harm or death’” (O’Neill, “True Threats”, 2017). These exceptions to the first amendment illustrate that the right is not absolute in American jurisprudence, and the intent and manner of the speech – as illustrated above – weighs heavily in whether or not it is permissible.


“The Bill of Rights: A Transcription.” 2023. National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration. April 21. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transcript#:~:text=Amendment%20I-,Congress%20shall%20make%20no%20law%20respecting%20an%20establishment%20of%20religion,for%20a%20redress%20of%20grievances.

Cascone, Sarah. 2021. “Archaeologists Have Discovered a Pristine 45,000-Year-Old Cave Painting of a Pig That May Be the Oldest Artwork in the World.” Artnet News. December 9. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/indonesia-pig-art-oldest-painting-1937110#:~:text=Archaeologists%20believe%20they%20have%20discovered,at%20least%2045%2C500%20years%20ago. David L. Hudson, Jr. 2020. Defamation. May 14. https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1812/defamation. “Declaration of the Rights of Man - 1789.” 2008. Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library - The Avalon Project. https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/rightsof.asp.

“History of Free Speech.” 2022. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. https://www.thefire.org/history-free-speech#timeline--23542--2.

Hudson, David L. 2009a. “Obscenity and Pornography.” Obscenity and Pornography. https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1004/obscenity-and-pornography.

Hudson, David L. 2009b. “Ward v. Rock against Racism.” Ward v. Rock against Racism. https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/370/ward-v-rock-against-racism.

Hudson, David L. 2009c. Miller v. California. https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/401/miller-v-california.

Konstan, David. 2012. “The Two Faces of Parrhêsia*: Free Speech and Self-Expression in Ancient Greece: Journal of the Australian Society for Classical Studies.” Proquest. Antichton. https://www.proquest.com/docview/1459226473?parentSessionId=2riArMLT%2B2G%2FrXHB8pHqr%2B%2FkAK%2FBkJYL8QsEw3yaHAg%3D&pq-origsite=primo&accountid=6167.

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O’Neill, Kevin Francis. 2009. “Time, Place and Manner Restrictions.” Time, Place and Manner Restrictions. https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1023/time-place-and-manner-restrictions.

O’Neill, Kevin Francis. 2017. “True Threats.” True Threats. https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1025/true-threats. Peoples, Hervey C, Pavel Duda, and Frank W Marlowe. 2016. “Hunter-Gatherers and the Origins of Religion.” Human Nature (Hawthorne, N.Y.). U.S. National Library of Medicine. September. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4958132/. Rickless, Samuel. 2020. “Locke on Freedom.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. January 21. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke-freedom/.

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Volokh, Eugene. 2023. “Permissible Restrictions on Expression.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. June 30. https://www.britannica.com/topic/First-Amendment/Permissible-restrictions-on-expression.

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When was it generally accepted as a fundamental, legally-protectable right? + create