Freedom of expression/speech is not absolute. Legal limitations such as defamation and discrimination laws exist in all mature liberal democracies. Drawing on recent and historical events in the history of free speech, this essay will discuss freedom of expression’s role in democratic systems, why it isn’t absolute and why some do not identify with the ‘I am Charlie’ campaign in France.

The following essay will discuss why liberal democracies do not operate with an absolute freedom of speech and expression. Also, it will argue that there is a need to limit free speech for a ‘greater good’.

This paper will firstly describe what is defined by freedom of speech and expression, and what it entails. Secondly, using past and present cases, it will justify why it is necessary to limit freedom of speech when protecting the reputation of individuals from defamation and discrimination. Using historical events, it will discuss why there is a need to improve discrimination and defamation laws in liberal democracies if they are to demonstrate equality and fairness.

Thirdly, it will discuss the role of freedom of speech in a democratic system. Furthermore, it will look at why some people did not identify with the recent ‘I am Charlie’ campaign in France. Finally, it will conclude with why freedom of speech and expression is not absolute and why it can never be an absolute (Danesi 2013).

The right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship is defined as freedom of speech and expression. It involves the act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, or in print, in the form of art or through any other media of choice (Amnesty International 2013).

Governments restrict different types of speech by implementing policies such as speech codes. Common limitations on speech relate to slander, defamation, classified information, copyright violation, non-disclosure agreements, trade secrets, obscenity, pornography, and sedition, right to privacy, incitement, public security, public nuisance and campaign finance.

Free speech limitations can be expanded to exclude forms of expression as well, which are considered offensive to individuals, special interest groups or society as a whole. For example, freedom of speech is limited in many jurisdictions to varying degrees by religious legal systems, religious offence or incitement to ethnic or racial hatred laws.

There are reasons why freedom of speech should not be an absolute. For example, even in a liberal democracy such as the United States, one could not sell snake oil claiming it will cure cancer. Insider trading that gives an unfair advantage over competitors is prohibited. A person could not yell ‘Fire!’ in a way that could cause a stampede (Paulson 2011). In Germany, denying the holocaust is seen as a punishable crime.


With regard to Australian law, there are exceptions to limiting freedom of speech, defamation being one such exception. An individual cannot tell a lie that can harm the reputation of someone else. Even in liberal democracies, exceptions to the rules are necessary to mediate between competing interests. Defamation laws in Australia are expansive to protect the reputation of people from an unfair attack (Chesterman 2011:153-193).

There are two forms of defamation – oral and published. Oral defamation is usually linked with slander and applies to stories and/or comments told at a public venue such as a party or meeting. Public defamation is linked to libel and applies to television broadcasts or newspaper articles or pictures that claim to be generally false. However, outside oral and published defamation, anything that could be likened to injuring a person’s reputation can be identified as defamatory. This could be extended to a picture or comment that brings ridicule, contempt and disrepute to an individual (Mathis 2015).

However, this sort of extended protection could be seen as a regressive law in a liberal democracy. If the law applies, almost every citizen makes statements that are defamatory. For an example, if an employee says to his friends that his or her boss is unfair, such a comment could be seen as defamation. It is rare though, it seems, that someone uses the law against such statements.

The defences to such law suits are mostly based on the person’s right to say it, where it leads back to freedom of speech. If the person has the ‘right to say it’, then he or she has a legal defence. A persons ‘right to say it’ falls into three categories – what he or she said was factually and true, the individual had the duty to provide the information, or simply expressing an opinion.

Most defamation cases get settled before they reach the court. However, the minority of cases are still heard, but there are flaws such as cost, unpredictability, complexity and slowness even with the ones that do go into a court hearing (Arts Law Centre of Australia 2015).

Most people never sue due to legal costs related to processing claims. The cases could go on for years and even if sentences are passed, they can be appealed. This means it is mostly the powerful and rich who sue as a tool for blocking their public criticisms.

The unpredictability and complexity of defamation law has dire consequences on journalists. Writers with defamation at the back of their minds often write ‘watered down’ versions of the truth to be as least offensive as possible. Publishers even have lawyers read through articles to remove any information that might offend someone, even if the information is true. This is a tremendous restriction on free speech (Hirst M. & Patching R. 2014:223).

In 1965, the case of the New South Wales Premier, Sir Robert Askin, which was centred on a rumour that he was associated with organised crime and corrupt police was never openly published because the media was afraid he would sue for defamation, and that he would win. The National Times waited almost two decades (1981) after his death to publish their front-page story, “Askin: Friend to Organised Crime.” Liberal democracies often silence critics. They do what it takes to prevent further discussions of criticisms that could be damaging to public figures (Abjorensen 2007).

One of the best defences against defamation is a rebuttal to the claim. However, when defamatory statements are made in the media, people’s reputations are destroyed and there is very little that can be done to repair them. Freedom of speech is not much use when information is published en masse. There is no determining how far the information has reached or who received it. Even when an apology is made, it is often too late to restore the reputation.

The treatment of Sam Harris by the biggest Internet news company TYT (The Young Turks) is one such example (Harris 2015). TYT consistently misrepresented his views, which resulted in him appearing as a guest in one of their shows and stating the following: “Viewers coming naively to this (interview) video won’t understand the context of this conversation. I think you have treated me unfairly during the last few weeks, and I have come here to clean up this mess. The structure of that conversation is an unfortunate one. I’m going to say things that are going to sound defensive, I’m here to take the slime of a few people of your show before me, off of me. That’s and unfortunate context for any conversation. There is a deeper point about journalism (and defamation) that needs to be exposed here.

Let me explain, the website has a dozen articles about me that are just pure slander. They misrepresent my views, one of the writers called me a douche-bag (in the article). This is not journalism. These are just hit-pieces that are on the website Salon.

Any naive reader of that website would assume all of this is journalistically sourced, there is an editorial policy that has made all this ‘kosher’. But the truth is, much of what you read in Salon is people in their bed room typing, this is not the New York Times. There are factual inaccuracies and tonal differences with their articles about me.

So I complained to the editor-in-chief of Salon about this. He said to me – sorry you feel that way, at Salon we are open to all voices, and it’s all about conversation. This is a Salon after all. Perhaps you should write an article defending yourself? Defend how you are not a racist, bigot, Zionist and a Islamophobe.

So first they steal part of my reputation by putting out slander, but now they also want to steal my time but also they are trying to get me to work (for them) for free. Then they want me to drive all my traffic an fans to their site where they can read where I’m not a racist, Islamophobe and a genocidal maniac. Does this seem familiar to you?

What has happened on your show in previous weeks, you had this guy, C.J Werleman – who is now a well-established fraud, liar and serial plagiarist. He was obviously lying about my views and he was on your show unrebutted for an hour. So what journalistic purpose is being served by having that hour of video online till the end of the world where he is calling me a genocidal maniac, I want to execute a nuclear first strike to the Middle East, I want to kill people for thought crimes. What journalistic purpose is being served when that video is going to stand on it’s own in the internet – Even if I am here to rebut him, they (the public) are not going to find this video of my rebutting him. That video is going to be out there forever and this guy (C.J Werleman) has zero credibility.”

This is one of the core problems when it comes to most media organisations and defamation, that is, they avoid making retractions. They sometimes go far as defending a defamation case, even when they are in the wrong. They would rather go to court than admit to their wrong doing. As seen with the case of Sam Harris, it doesn’t serve well when it comes to protecting reputations. Once the information is out, there is no way of withdrawing it (Martin 2007).

Defamation law is consistently inconsistent. It prevents free speech but doesn’t completely protect the reputation of people. If defamation is to prove successful in liberal democracies, it needs to reform itself to represent all people in a democracy equally, instead of a select few. The reform should reposition the burden of proof from defendant to claimant. Therefore, the defendant should not carry the burden of proof. The defendant should not need evidence to support his or her claim for their sentence. Fulfilling the burden of proof effectively captures the benefit of assumption, passing the burden of proof onto the other party – the claimant.

At its core, defamation is a necessity in a liberal democracy. It is an effective tool that is available as a penalty for lying. However, since the law has been extended to capture any form of defame, it has become less credible and more unreliable. It has become its own enemy. In practice, it has hindered free speech and managed to protect powerful people from scrutiny whilst failing to defend others. Court costs should be reduced so that it won’t only be a tool used by people of power to shut down criticisms. Also, as in the case of Sam Harris, systems should be set up for people to lose credibility if they are exposed as lying or misrepresenting one’s statements.

Similar to defamation law, discrimination laws exist to protect the public from discriminatory speech. Discrimination laws help protect people being ill-treated due to their religion, national origin, race, colour, or sex. It is mostly there for restricting members of one group from opportunities or privileges that are available to another group. However, there is a fine line between free speech and discrimination. As a rule, the law on protecting people from discrimination should never surpass laws that protect freedom of speech (Lynch 2012).

Exceptions to this rule can be observed by criminalising the denial of the Holocaust. Some of the liberal democracies that banned the denial of the genocide, include Germany, Austria and Hungary, who were also the main perpetrators of the said genocide. They also have laws that extend to censoring speech and expression that is associated with Nazism (Ash 2007).

There are two main reasons to protect freedom of speech. The first is to respect the choice of individuals, and the other is to be pragmatic. To date, democracy is the best form of government that humanity has produced. Democratic governance is essential for individual citizens to thrive and unrestricted speech is part of it. The end goal of democracy is fairness and equality. For this to be achieved, its citizens need to speak, study, think and participate freely in self-governance.

However, living in a democracy also means that we have to compromise as well. When free speech collides with other interests, there is mediation and boundaries are established in the interest of achieving a balance. Some would even consider that words could be used as weapons and can have consequences. They can incite harm by degrading and assaulting an individual.

This is precisely why liberal democracies have limits on free speech, where people are not able to discriminate based on a person’s religion, national origin, race, colour, or sex. The reason why by law, we do not allow defamation and discrimination in liberal democracies is because it unfairly harms the reputation of a person. Protecting the reputation of a person is imperative in a liberal democracy.

However, the right to freedom of press is also indicative of a liberal society. The more there is freedom of press and media, the more democratic the society is. It becomes a society capable of self-governing and making its own decisions. Creating awareness of daily occurrences and having complete transparency can release the social, cultural and political tensions of a society. Journalism can be used as an effective tool by a liberal democracy to practice freedom of speech.

The key function of journalism in a liberal democracy is the unbiased gathering and dissemination of information. It could be argued that media is the fourth branch of power. It is the watch-dog of the government. This is self-evident in cases such as the Watergate scandal, which saw the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon, the Gulf of Tonkin scandal of the U.S involvement in the Vietnam War, the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba and more recently, the WikiLeaks tapes on the Iraqi war crimes and the NSA domestic surveillance scandal. In a free democratic society, information matters. It is what largely determines which political party is voted in to power (WTK 2015).

In a free society, the media should be given a license to criticise authorities, whether it be government or businesses. News should be produced based on public interests. This is something we do not see in an authoritarian regime. Journalism is the best tool the public has to exercise their freedom of speech.

Article 10 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right entails freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority, and regardless of the type of media used. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprise.”

From the above international declarations, we can see that they declare a clear right to freedom of expression. However, as mentioned earlier in this essay, we can see that freedom of speech is not an absolute. Even within these international declarations, provisions have been built into them to protect against defamation and discrimination (United Nations 2015).

ICCPR has set two provisions. One is about respecting the rights and/or reputations of others. The other is to protect national security and/or public health, morals and order (OHCHR 2015).

However, the breadth can be troubling. The issue of information being detrimental to national security can also be in the public interest. As stated earlier, examples of this can be seen by the WikiLeaks tapes on the Iraqi war crimes, Watergate scandal and NSA spying by Edward Snowden.

The European Convention on Human Rights (EUHR) specifically addresses these issues. The Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that:

“The right to freedom of expression belongs to everyone. The exercise of free speech, carries with it duties and responsibilities, which may be subject to formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.” (ECHR 2015).

The ECHR is very comprehensive with regard to restrictions, but the preconditions that limit the freedoms are necessary in a liberal democracy which is statute driven. There is a case to be made that free speech could also come with a responsibility. Unrestricted speech can lead to the violation of other human rights. It is important to note that ECHR differs from Australian law. It states that if certain speech can offend or shock, it still needs to be protected whereas in a liberal democracy, it is important to discuss issues that are in the public interests, where it is the scrutiny of a public official or a well-known celebrity. If the claims are true, the speech should not be suppressed.

In the case of Lingens V. Austria (1986), the court ruled that a politician should be able to take on more criticism than a regular citizen. It also established that a journalist can’t be silenced in order to protect this reputation. This made defamation laws that prosecuted public personalities more in line with press freedom (HUDOC 2015).

The ICCPR believes that propaganda for war – advocacy for racial, religious hate that incites discrimination or violence, should be made illegal. Since we live in a globalised world, unrestricted freedoms can lead to global incidents, as is evident through the Charlie Hebdo shooting, Muhamad cartoon in Denmark and Salman Rushdie’s Fatwa in the United Kingdom (Democracy Now 2015).

Even the media bore some responsibility when it came to the spread of propaganda in the Yugoslavian wars, as well as the Rwandan genocide in 1994. In a liberal democracy, it’s reasonable to have restrictions on freedom of speech but they need to be balanced by a court system that can judge if the restrictions are legitimate.

In a liberal democracy, free speech is one of its cornerstones. It facilitates progress and development of a society. It is important to distinguish between limiting free speech and having no free speech. It is a slippery-slope of an argument – if there is no absolute free speech, then we as a society should restrict it endlessly.

During the last 20 years, there has been a movement called the ‘Lord’s Resistance Army’ in Northern Uganda. By parading under the banner of ‘God’, they have practiced warfare. It rules as it pleases and when there is a speech that is in conflict with their interests, as a punishment they cut off the lips of the Ugandan citizens and sometimes punch holes through their lips, then padlock them in order to silence their speech (Global Security 2015).

Speech is a powerful instrument which can be intrinsically dangerous. The Rwandan genocide was orchestrated by radio speech and public speech. However, they never used clear words that could be identified as direct hate speech. They used euphemisms such as ‘Do your work. Do not let a weed escape the blade. Clear the bush’. The context matters. In a historical context, they should be considered hate speech. This form of hate speech did invariably lead to the genocide of the Tutsis. The problem here was not hate speech, rather, there wasn’t enough free speech. Citizens who protested against the genocide were silenced and deemed offensive (Gourvitch 1998).

The argument for hate speech is a difficult one. It is not the case of where free speech ends, but where hate speech begins. Once you start branding sacrilegious and racist speech as offensive, you might have to resort to book burning. In that context, it is perfectly normal to burn books such as Huckleberry Finn where African Americans are negatively portrayed. Speeches such as a Holocaust denial, defeat the purpose of free speech. Making a speech like the Holocaust denial illegal ends up creating a platform and elevates such inaccurate claims in order to silence them.

In the article, ‘Limits of free speech’ by David Cesarani, he says that “Thanks to the Internet, it is virtually impossible to stop the dissemination of laws and propaganda these days. The classical argument of free speech drawn from Voltaire and Mill are redundant. They addressed small, literate elites at a time when the means of reproduction were relatively few and easily controlled, when it was easy to contend that in a contest between truth and falsehood held among reasonable men, lies would be exposed and driven from the public sphere. But the Internet is awash with falsehood and bigotry. Good ideas and beautiful truths coexist with trash and outright evil. Heaven forfend that bad ideas should be out there. Amid this anarchy, all that decent people can do is agree to reasonable limits on what can be said and set down legal markers in an attempt to preserve a democratic, civilised and tolerant society.” (Casarani 2008).

However, this could be problematic as it could be argued to be a thought crime. There should be no regulation that prohibits a person from thinking what he wants to think or what he wishes to say.

At times we silence people who are pro-Jewish and at other times we silence people who are anti-Muslim – it depends on where we are and the decade we are in. This is dangerous, as we are accepting that speech should be limited but we are also responsible for limiting it. It should not be a choice of the lesser of two evils. Creating an idea of licensing speech is troubling as most speech would be restricted before it is licensed. That means that an authority would be in charge of issuing the license which begs the question, ‘What would happen to the free speech that criticises that authority? How would this authority not be corrupted and not fall into the wrong hands, like in northern Uganda?’

Arguments from authorities and/or tradition that suggest free speech can be limited by higher authorities should not be part of a liberal democracy. Thomas Paine, former American president, suggested that someone who represses the opinions of another end up being prisoners of their own opinions. They deny themselves the information that could possibly change their ideas (Stanford Encylopedia 2013).

Freedom of speech is the freedom of ideas. However unwelcome it is, it needs to be heard. Deeming one opinion as illegal is an offence against all opinions. No matter what the opinion is, in a liberal democracy it has the right to be heard. In a free market of speech, negative ideas will be heard and rejected and good ideas will surface. If bad ideas continue to triumph over good ideas, it is not a problem of freedom of speech or society having to limit free speech, it is more or less a reflection of society itself.

In 1997, the Nazi party of America paraded through a little town in Illinois, Skokie. It is a popular retirement village for the survivors of the Second World War. The American Civil Liberties Union allowed the march and in turn lost a lot of its members (ACLU 2015). However, in accordance with free speech – it was correct to defend that speech. As stated in the book, ‘The Friends of Voltaire’ by S.G. Tallentyre,’I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’ (McNally 2015).

In the mid-1850s, a democratic politician named William M. Tweed was facing a barrage of criticisms in the form of cartoons about the handling of the Orange country riot of 1971. Mr. Tweed responded with, “Stop them damn pictures!” Even after 150 years, the issue still remains, but this time it is ‘Stop the damn pictures – Charlie Hebdo’. (Hess 2010)

Most people wanted to ‘stop them damn pictures’ that Charlie Hebdo published. To an extent, the shooters of Charlie Hebdo were successful. In July of this year, Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Laurent Sourisseau released this statement: ‘We won’t publish pictures of Prophet Mohamed anymore’. (Mortimer 2015).

On January 7th, 2014, Cherid Kouach and Said Kouach forced themselves into the offices of Charlie Hebdo. They killed twelve people because they found what the newspaper published was offensive. This wasn’t the first time there was incited violence in the offices of Charlie Hebdo. In 2011, the officers were firebombed by other critiques of the magazine. The editor-in-chief, Stepane Charbonnier, required police protection, until he was eventually killed by Cherid Kouach and Said Kouach in 2014 (Callimachi 2015).

The Charlie Hebdo cartoons are always mostly insulting and crude. However, they were still allowed to be published. After the January 7 attack, French art director, Joachim Ronchin created the slogan, ‘I am Charlie’. It was quickly adopted by the supporters of freedom of speech. As Joachim Ronchin would describe it, it identifies with the journalist who were killed at the Charlie Hebdo shooting. It supported a peaceful resistance to armed threats to journalists and supported the freedom of expression. The slogan was first adopted by Twitter, in the form of a hashtag. Within two days, the hashtag became the most popular hashtag in the history of Twitter. It was supported by a global audience who were in favour of freedom of speech. It was used in music, print and animated cartoons. A town square in France was also named after it to immortalise it. (Provost 2015).

However, some people do not identify with the ‘I am Charlie’ campaign. Immediately after the positive global response to ‘I am Charlie’, there was an ‘Anti-Charlie’ response. Some people claimed that the staff of Charlie Hebdo brought it on themselves and that they deserved to be murdered for their cartoons.

The ‘Anti-Charlie’ response failed to recognise the right to be offensive and offended, as individuals forgot the right to offend is also part of free speech. The mere suggestion of allowing freedom of speech until you say something is said that one disagrees with is imperative in this narrative, where more commonly, free speech would suggest ‘I might not like what you say but I will defend the right for you to say it’, as we saw with the case of the American Civil Liberties Union defending the right of the American Nazi’s to protest in Illinois, Skokie.

Another reason that people associate with the ‘Anti-Charlie’ response is religion, specifically in Islam and other religions that have blasphemy laws. In accordance with the Islamic Quran, blasphemy against the Prophet is a very heinous crime and the Quran strongly forbids it. It makes eleven references to it (Surah 2:88, 4:15, 5:17, 5:64, 5:68, 5:73, 6:19, 9:74, 11:19, 14:28, 39:8) (Surah Al-Barqarah 2015). The suggestion is that there should be silence when it comes to criticising Islam. This is evident by the murders of bloggers who criticise Islam in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Therefore, the core of Islamic law is not compatible with freedom of speech and therefore not completely compatible with democracy. However, there has been a tremendous effort by liberals in the Middle East, for example by Maajid Nawaz, to reform religion to accept criticisms and not resort to violence when criticisms are made (Nawaz 2015).

Months later, the ‘Anti-Charlie’ response is still influential. There have been several related shootings in Texas, United States and Copenhagen, Denmark. This is not acceptable behaviour in a liberal democracy but these sort of reactions will continue until there is a reformation of Islam. This can be observed in Christianity which went through reformation after the dark ages, making blasphemy tolerable (Shoichet 2015).

Undoubtedly, due to the various colonial enterprises in France, a section of the minority has been marginalised and victimised. A large percentage of that minority have been devout Muslims. To devoted Muslims, the cartoon is offensive and causes further humiliation. The ultimate question is, is it in the public interest for it to be seen?

From the years 2005 to 2015, most of their publications had nothing to do with religion. Also, out of the 523 Charlie Hebdo publications, only seven have relevancy to Islam. It was in the public interest based on context. It fit precisely with the French satire and culture where they have no sacred cow and no prisoner type of humour that other countries do not abide by. Therefore, in context, it was in the public interest that the cartoons were published (Dwyer 2015).

In conclusion, freedom of expression and speech is not an absolute. The standard used to limit freedom of speech should be whether a claim is true or false. Regardless of defamation or discrimination, in a liberal democracy, factual and true speech should be allowed. In current liberal democracies, defamation is often used to silence criticisms of powerful people, an example of this being the 1965 case of Sir Robert Askin.

However, a solution for more equality and fairness would be to shift the burden of proof from defendant to claimant. Another protected speech is discrimination. Speech such as hate speech should be reformed as it remains ambiguous, which was the case in Rwanda. As it inherently doesn’t need to incite violence to be hate speech, speaking in innuendos was just as effective in harvesting a genocide. Therefore, society might never have a definition of what could be defined as ‘hate speech’.

In a liberal democracy, freedom of speech is fundamental to the operation of any democracy. The Universal Declaration on Human rights and other international conventions have established speech and expression as a basic human right. However, these conventions are somewhat flawed as they give priority to authorities such as national security in comparison to democratic principles such as the ‘public’s right to know’. We have seen issues such as the WikiLeaks tapes on the Iraqi war crimes and NSA domestic surveillance scandal come to surface due to this. They have been made illegal due to national security, but once they surfaced they were deemed to be of the public’s right to knowledge. Thus, some issues will always be a battle between national security and the public’s right to knowledge.

Thomas I. Emerson argued that freedom of speech helps to provide a balance between stability and change. Free speech acts as a safety valve to let off steam when people might otherwise be bent on revolution. The Worldwide Governance Indicators project of the World Bank researches into the accountability of global governance. They found that that freedom of speech and accountability are intrinsic and it has a significant impact on the quality of the governance of a country. “Voice and Accountability” within a country, defined as “the extent to which a country’s citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and free media” is one of the six dimensions of governance that the Worldwide Governance Indicators measure for more than 200 countries (World Bank 2015). Against this backdrop it is important that development agencies create grounds for effective support for a free press in developing countries (Harvard Law review: 1210-1227).

Yes, freedom of expression and speech is not an absolute. Legal limitations should exist to protect the reputation of individuals. However, laws that deal with defamation and discrimination need to be reformed to represent all individuals equally in a democracy, which it has not done so far. Free speech has a vital role in a democratic system – it is considered a basic right. The attack on Charlie Hebdo was a violation of this right.

It is necessary to exercise freedom of speech and expression in order to have a democratic society, but limitations are also needed for the maintenance of the democratic society. The limitations of free speech should correspond to the two key preconditions: necessity in a democratic society and established statutes, as the rule of law is the basis for democracy. Sometimes, in a democracy, citizens may choose to identify more with their personal and cultural beliefs rather than the liberal democratic values of their country. This is essentially why some do not identify with the “I am Charlie” campaign.



Chesterman M. 2000,’Freedom of Speech in Australian Law’, Dartmouth Publishing, Hants, England. Vol (1) pp.1-193, 301-319.

Fish. S. 1994, ’There’s no such thing as free speech, and it’s a good thing’. Oxford university press, New York, New York. Vol. (1) pp. 31-134.

irst M. & Patching R. 2014,’Journalism Ethics: Arguments and cases for the twenty first century’, Rutledge, New York, New York. Vol. (1) pp. 208 – 224.

Harvard Law review 2000, ‘Safety Valve Closed: The Removal of Nonviolent Outlets for Dissent and the Onset of Anti-Abortion Violence’, Vol. 113 (5), pp. 1210-1227

Youth Media 2015, ‘What is the role of freedom of speech in a democratic society and where are its limits’, retrieved 8 October 2015, <;.

Qusmi 2012, ‘Balsphemy in Islam: The Qu’ran curses and Hadith prescribes punishment’, retrieved 10 October 2015, <;.

The Age 2015, ‘Charlie Hebdo: Defence of free speech brings out the two-faced’, retrieved 6 October 2015, <;.

The Economist 2015, ‘Free all speech’, retrieved 8 October 2015, <;.

O’Neill B. 2015,’Je Suis Charlie: A Caricature of freedom of speech’, retrieved 12 October 2015, <;.

The Guardian 2015,’Timeline: A history of free speech’, retrieved 17 October 2015, <;.

Lynch P. 2012,’The right to free speech and the prohibition against discrimination’, retrieved 15 October 2015, <;. Shapiro I. 2013,’Anti-discrimination law can’t trump the freedom of speech’, retrieved 15 October 2015, <;.

Danesi M. 2013, ‘Encyclopaedia of Media and communication’, retrieved 18 October 2015,<;.

Mathis K. 2015,’European perspectives on behavioural law and economics’, retrieved 18 October 2015, <>.

Amnesty International 2013, ’What is free speech’, retrieved 15 October 2015, <;.

Surah Al-Barqarah 2015,’The Nobel Qu’ran’, retrieved 10 October 2015, <;.

Arts Law Centre of Australia 2015, ‘Defamation law for material published after January 2006’, retrieved 14 October 2015, <;.

Abojorense N. 2007,’Robert Askin: the legacy that dare to speak its name’, retrieved 14 October 2015, <;.

Harris S. 2015, ‘The Young Turks Interview’, retrieved 18 October 2015, <;.

Martin B. 1994,’Defamation law and free speech’, retrieved 14 October 2015, <;.

Ash T. 2007,’A blanket ban on Holocause would be a serious mistake’, retrieved 12 October 2015, <;

WTK 2015, ‘Excerpts of key war news articles in media’, retrieved 20 October 2015, <;. United Nations 2015, ‘The universal declaration of Human rights’, retrieved 20 October 2015, <;.

OHCHR 2015,’International covenant on civil and political rights’, retrieved 20 October 2015, <;.

ECHR 2015,’European Convention on Human Rights’, retrieved 20 October 2015, <;.

HUDOC 2015,’Case of Lingens V Austria’, retrieved 20 October 2015, <{“itemid”:[“001-57523”]}>.

Democracy Now 2015,’Charlie Hebdo Shooting: 12 killed’, retrieved 21 October 2015,<;.

Global Security 2015,’The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)’, retrieved 21 October 2015, <;.

Gourevitch P. 1998, ’We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families’, retrieved 21 October 2015, <;.

Cesarani D. 2008, ’The limits of free speech’, retrieved 22 October 2015, <;.

Stanford Encylopedia 2013,’Thomas Paine’, retrieved 22 October 2015, <;.

ACLU 2015, ‘ACLU History’, retrieved 22 October 2015, <;. McNally 2015,’Remember that famous Voltaire quote about free speech? It was written by a woman’, retrieved 8 October 2015, <;. Hess S. 2010,’American political cartoons’, retrieved 16 October 2015, <;.

Mortimer C. 2015,’Charlie Hebdo editor admits: “We won’t publish pictures of Prophet Mohamed anymore’, retrieved 12 October 2015, <;. Callimachi R. 2015,’From amateur to ruthless’, retrieved 12 October 2015, <;. Provost L. 2015, ‘The man behind #JesuisCharlie’, retrieved 12 October 2015, <;.

Nawaz M. 2015, ‘Charlie Hebdo: Not all Muslims agree on what is offensive. And we must make that clear’, retrieved 14 October 2015, <;.

Shoichet C. 2015,’Garland, Texas, shooting suspect linked himself to ISIS in tweets’, retrieved 14 October 2015, <;.

Dwyer J. 2015, ‘Under threat because of his words, a Charlie Hebdo writer continues to speak out’, retrieved 24 October 2015, <;. World Bank 2015, ‘Worldwide Governance Indicators’, retrieved 14 October 2015, <;.


Freedom of expression/speech is not absolute. Legal limitations such as defamation and discrimination laws exist in all mature liberal democracies. Drawing on recent and historical events in the history of free speech, this essay will discuss freedom of expression’s role in democratic systems, why it isn’t absolute and why some do not identify with the ‘I am Charlie’ campaign in France.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s