Free Expression in the Media

The campaign against the proposed legislation to create a criminal offence of ‘incitement to religious hatred’ has generated a great deal of debate and analysis at all levels. On this page you can read a selection of the articles and comments related to the debate, with background information on some of the issues raised. Please find below press and media coverage from 2006-7. To see coverage between 2003 and 2005 click here.

‘Egyptian blogger jailed for four years for insulting Islam’ – Ian Black reports on the case of Egptian blogger Abdel-Karim Nabil Suleiman (Guardian, 23 February 2007).

‘Censorship: Still a burning issue’ – Boyd Tonkin looks at the history of censorship and wonders whether the thought police will ever learn (The Independent, 22 February 2007).

‘Internet giants bow to human rights protests’Google, microsoft and Yahoo! have drawn up a code of conduct to protect human rights online. (Guardin, 28 Jaunuary 2007) 

‘Did you see?’ – American school board fired teacher Stephen Murmer, for his unusual hobby, art. ‘A public employee has a right to free expression outside of the work place.’ (The Times, 11 January 2007)

‘Martyrs of the web’ – A campaign launched to free bloggers jailed for stating the truth, Shi Tao was sentanced for 10 years. (The Independent , 27 October 2006)

‘US free speech row grows as author says Jewish complaints stopped launch party’ – Ed Pilkington reports from New York on the growing dispute concerning the launch of british-based author Carmen Callil’s new book in which she comments on the modern state of Israel (The Guardian, 11 October 2006).

‘The struggle to defend free expression is defining our age’ – Timothy Garton Ash surveys recent cases of threats to freedom of expression worldwide and argues for the need to defend the individual’s right to express their views freely (The Guardian, Coment is Free, 5 October 2006).

‘Debate grows over freedom of speech’ – Jeremy Bransten reports on the case of Robert Redeker, now in hiding after denouncing Islam as a violent religion in French newspaper Le Figaro, and the cancellation of Mozart’s opera Idomeneo in Berlin (Radio Free Europe, 3 October 2006).

‘French critic of Islam flees threats’ – Elaine Sciolino writes about French philosophy teacher and writer Robert Redeker who wrote an article for Le Figaro highlighting links between Islam and violence and as a result is now in hiding (International Herald Tribune, 29 September 2006).

‘Fear of offending Islam spurs hot debate in Europe’ – Mark Trevelyan and Mike Collett-White discuss how the cancellation of Idomeneo in Germany has reignited a heated debate across Europe about free speech and censorship (Reuters, 27 September 2006).

‘Opera withdrawn over Islamist threat’ – Bertrand Benoit writes from Berlin about renowned opera house Deutsche Oper who have withdrawn a production of Mozart’s Idomeneo following concerns that some scenes may cause outrage from Islamist extremists (The Financial Times, 26 September 2006).

‘How communities control language: The freedom to offend’ – Ian Buruma discusses Mel Gibson’s recent anti-Semitic outburst and Hollywood’s reaction (The New Republic, 26 August 2006).

‘All that is banned is desired’ – Freemuse held a conference in Beirut in October 2005 about freedom of expression in music. Click on the heading to read their report (6 June 2006).

‘A Victory for Intollerance in Holland’ – An editorial piece about liberal vales in the Netherlands, discussing the murder of film maker Theo van Gogh in 2004 and the recent resignation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali from Parliament after the authorities claim that her citizenship is no longer valid (New York Times, 19 May 2006).

‘Freedom to write’ – Orhan Pamuk, Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie discuss power, shame and saying the unsayable (Open Democracy, 28 April, 2006)


‘Britain’s liberties: The great debate’ – Henry Porter and Tony Blair have a frank e-mail debate, after the journalist writes to the Prime Minister to say ‘New Labour have pared down our liberty at an astonishing rate’. (The Observer, 23 April, 2006)

‘Peace campaigner fined for Whitehall protest’ – Matthew Tempest reports the conviction of Milan Rai for reading the names of war dead at a public street in Central London. (The Guardian, 12 April, 2006)

‘Free to offend?’ – Georgina Henry launches The Guardian’s ‘comment is free…’ website. The article includes a link to the opening debate, between Will Hutton, Salma Yaqoob and others.  (Guardian Unlimited, 15 March, 2006)

‘The erosion of Free Speech’ – Robert Fisk highlights a lack of freedom in discussing the Middle East, after My Name is Rachel Corrie is cancelled in New York. (The Independent, 11 March, 2006)

‘One thing a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian and a humanist can agree on’ – Johnathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi, discusses religious contribution to the history of free speech, and highlights a historical consensus in defending free expression. (The Times, 4 March, 2006)

‘We need the Lords to hold firm on the terrorism bill’ – David Edgar talks about the removal of the glorification clause from the terrorism bill which could be achieved if the Lords chose to defy the Commons (The Guardian, 28 February, 2006).

‘Drawing a jilbab over a schoolgirl’s religious rights’ – David Pannick looks at the case of a Muslim schoolgirl’s fight to wear a jilbab in relation to striking the right balance between religious rights of the individual and the interests of the community (The Times, 14 February, 2006).

‘Even bigots and Holocaust deniers must have their say’ – Ronald Dworkin, law professor at UCL, argues that laws allowing the free exercise of religion must also allow freedom to offend religions. (The Guardian, 14 February, 2006)

‘The good news: we have a victory to celebrate’ – Salman Rushdie recounts the ‘vital victory’ of English PEN and its supporters in amending the Religious Hatred bill, while also urging new Labour to take the movement towards free speech one step further in tackling the anomalous and outdated blashpemy law (The Independent, 12 February 2006).

Timeline: a history of free speech’ – David Smith and Luc Torres provide a handy history of free speech from 399BC to 2006 AD. (The Observer, 5 February, 2006)

‘Ministers lose religious hatred bill’ – Report on the government’s two shock defeats as the Lords amendemt to the Religious Hatred bill is voted in (BBC News, 1 February 2006).

‘Writers celebrate changes to Religious hatred law’ Asians in Media reports on the Labour defeat in the Commons, quoting supporters of the amemdment such as Hari Kunzru and Philip Pullman alongside text from the English PEN Press Release, circulated on February 1st (Asians in Media, 6 February 2006).

‘Government suffers chaotic double defeat over bill to combat religious hatred’ – Michael White relays the triumph of the opposition over a government which ‘took their eye off the ball’ (The Guardian, 1 February 2006).

‘Writers’ reactions to free expression victory’ Media Watch summarises authors’ reactions to the Government defeat over the Hatred bill amendment with quotes from writers (Media Watch, 1 February 2006).

‘Free Expression: No Offence meant’ – Anita Joshua reviews Free Expression is No Offence, highlighting golden ‘nuggets of information’ and key contributors (The Hindu, 1 January 2006).  

We will be continuously updating this page as and when more stories are brought to our attention or as developments dictate. If any of the links fail to function, please contact us.


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