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Portal:Freedom of speech

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Introduction

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)—Article 19 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".

Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. The term "freedom of expression" is sometimes used synonymously but includes any act of seeking, receiving, and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that "everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice". The version of Article 19 in the ICCPR later amends this by stating that the exercise of these rights carries "special duties and responsibilities" and may "therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary "[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others" or "[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals".

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William Davies Shipley, the defendant
The Case of the Dean of St Asaph, formally R v Shipley, was the 1784 trial of William Shipley, the Dean of St Asaph, for seditious libel. In the aftermath of the American War of Independence, electoral reform had become a substantial issue, and William Pitt the Younger attempted to bring a Bill before Parliament to reform the electoral system. In its support Shipley republished a pamphlet written by his brother-in-law, Sir William Jones, which noted the defects of the existing system and argued in support of Pitt's reforms. Thomas FitzMaurice, the brother of the Earl of Shelburne, reacted by indicting Shipley for seditious libel, a criminal offence which acted as "the government's chief weapon against criticism", since merely publishing something that an individual judge interpreted as libel was enough for a conviction; a jury was prohibited from deciding whether or not the material was actually libellous. The law was widely seen as unfair, and a Society for Constitutional Information was formed to pay Shipley's legal fees. With financial backing from the society Shipley was able to secure the services of Thomas Erskine KC as his barrister. Shipley was tried in 1784 by Mr Justice Buller and a specially convened jury at Shrewsbury. Edward Bearcroft, counsel for the prosecution, argued that on the basis of the existing system the jury could not decide on the nature of the pamphlet, while Erskine argued not only that they could, but that the material did not constitute seditious libel, containing as it did "a solemn protest against all sedition". Persuaded by Erskine's arguments, the jury ruled that Shipley was not "guilty" or "not guilty", but instead "guilty of publication only", a confusing and non-standard ruling which, after a long dialogue, Mr Justice Buller declared to mean "guilty on all charges". Erskine appealed the decision to the Court of King's Bench on 8 November, where the judges again ruled that juries could not decide whether material was libellous, but nevertheless released Shipley on a technicality; his freedom was greeted with fireworks and bonfires, and Erskine was rewarded with the Freedom of the City of Gloucester. Still seeking to reform the law, Erskine sent the court records to Charles James Fox and Lord Camden, who, after much effort, passed the Libel Act 1792, which secured the right of juries to decide whether or not material was libellous.

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Dhondup Wangchen's wife Lhamo Tso (left) protesting on his behalf
Dhondup Wangchen (born 17 October 1974) is a Tibetan filmmaker imprisoned by the Chinese government in 2006 on charges related to his documentary Leaving Fear Behind. Made with senior Tibetan monk Jigme Gyatso, the documentary consists of interviews with ordinary Tibetan people discussing the 14th Dalai Lama, the Chinese government, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Han Chinese migrants to the region. After smuggling the tapes of the interviews out of Tibet, however, Dhondup Wangchen and Jigme Gyatso were detained during the 2008 Tibetan unrest. Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for subversion. Numerous international human rights organizations protested his detention, including Amnesty International, which named him a prisoner of conscience. In 2012, he was awarded the International Press Freedom Award of the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

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William Westmoreland

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