Censorship without legal restraints

This paper will look at more subtle forms of control, such as news management, misinformation, and flack, and considers the challenges this poses in terms of free speech theory.

The UN’s new role in addressing ‘hate speech’

This paper looks at the significance of the UN’s emerging role in addressing ‘hate speech’. Though UN human rights bodies have traditionally avoided the term, since 2019, there has been a discernible shift towards tackling ‘hate speech’ as such, as the or a subject of the outputs of various UN actors. At the heart of this trend is the UN’s systemwide Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech launched by the Secretary-General in June 2019. This paper critically examines the nature of, motivations for and consequences of the trend towards tackling ‘hate speech’ by the UN system. It argues that, while this development should not be used to legitimise broad legal restrictions on ‘hate speech’, it does pave the way for advancing a common and layered understanding of the term together with a new emphasis upon non-legal approaches in response, to potentially great benefit.

The European Court of Human Rights and blasphemy laws: an ‘overcautious and timid conception’ of free speech

Since 1994, the European Court of Human Rights is being urged by most legal scholars and by some of its own members to scrutinize more closely domestic laws criminalizing the disparagement of religious doctrines, symbols, or divine persons. Critics see its lenient case-law as “reflecting an overcautious and timid conception” of free speech (J.-P. Costa, diss. in I.A. v. Turkey, 2005). Yet the Court sticks to its views : the exercise of freedom of expression includes “a duty to avoid as far as possible an expression that is, in regard to objects of veneration, gratuitously offensive to others and profane”. An explanation for its “overcautious and timid” stance is often looked for in the margin of appreciation doctrine. The explanation might run deeper, however. Relying on the Court’s latest rulings, we shall question whether “overcautiousness” is really what it at stake here.