[Text on screen]: Should we be allowed to say anything we like...even if it offends people?

Should offensive speech be criminalised?

Do we have actually have a right to free speech?

Freedom of speech has been deemed the “lifeblood of democracy” and “lifeblood of democracy” - Anthony Paul Lester (barrister and politician).

But it’s not a freedom we’ve always had.

In 1689, the English Bill of Rights granted freedom of speech to politicians within Parliament.

It meant politicians could not be questioned about proceedings outside of Parliament.

It wasn’t until 1948 that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared the right to free speech for everyone.

Simply put, free speech encompasses three key aspects as first put forward by English author John Milton:

the right to seek information and ideas;
the right to receive information and ideas;
the right to impart information and ideas.

However, it does have its restrictions.

Hate speech which targets specific groups of people is a criminal offence.

This means offences targeted towards religion, nationality, race and sexual orientation.

But recent controversial news has brought about questions surrounding the right.

Youtuber Mark Meechan was convicted of breaching the Communications Act in March, 2018...for posting a video of his girlfriend's dog mimicking a Nazi salute.

After a court hearing, Meechan received an £800 fine.

Many argued that his right to free speech had been breached…it raised questions about whether offensive speech should not be criminalised in and of itself.

Freedom of Speech is a crucial right all humans should have.

But it is clear that the rules are not black and white.

We need to understand our right to free speech so we can celebrate and protect it.

What is free speech?

Published on 29 Nov 2019

Free speech has been called the “lifeblood of democracy”. It means we can hold and express opinions and ideas, and criticise people in positions of power.

Should we be allowed to say anything we like, even if it offends others?

Some people think we should. But the right to free expression is not unlimited. This video explains why.

Want to find out more?  Read our explainer on free speech.

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