Speaking Freely

HRF’s “Speaking Freely” project analyzes legal systems around the world, identifying and promoting those with a more robust protection of freedom of expression.

Speaking Freely

“Speaking Freely” is a comparative legal research project of the HRF-Center for Law and Democracy that seeks to better inform decision makers around the world and the global public about the value of a high free speech standard.

The research project will first track the ancient origins of the offenses of “incitement” and “defamation of public officials,” their evolution in the Middle Ages, and their adoption as legal provisions by European nations and their former colonies. Then, the project will study the evolution of the U.S. First Amendment free speech standard and the rationales behind it, while charting the pervasive misuse of incitement and official defamation laws by democratic and non-democratic governments around the world.

The project will study, compare, and disseminate landmark U.S. court opinions in the evolution of the broad protections guaranteed under the First Amendment juxtaposed with different speech-restricting laws enforced in both modern-day authoritarian states and liberal democracies around the world.

“Speaking Freely” is made possible thanks to a grant by the John Templeton Foundation.

 

Panel Discussions

  • The Awakening of China's Human Rights Movements. The panel featured human rights lawyer and visiting fellow at New York University Teng Biao; pro-democracy activist and Tiananmen Square survivor Yang Jianli; author and civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng; and independent journalist and feminist Lü Pin.

    • See pictures of the panel here

Publications

  • Amicus curiae brief submitted to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in June 2014, on the case of Granier et al (Radio Caracas Televisión, “RCTV”) v. Venezuela. The HRF-Center for Law and Democracy asked the Court to settle the Inter-American standard for speech protection in cases where States prohibit speech in application of the international law prohibition of speech that constitutes incitement to violence or racial hatred. 
    • Read amicus curiae brief here.
  • Petition submitted to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) on the case of Mahmoud Abdel Shakour Abou Zeid Attitallah, an Egyptian photojournalist who has been arbitrarily detained since 2013. The petition was submitted jointly with the Impact Litigation Project at the American University Washington College of Law (ILP).
    • Read petition here

Working Papers

  • Instigación Pública y Libertad de Expresión en Venezuela (Spanish), by Antonio Canova González and Luis Alfonso Herrera Orellana
    • Read early draft here.
  • Proper Implementation of the Incitement Prohibition under International Law, by Javier El-Hage, Centa B. Rek and Roberto González
    • Read early draft here.
  • Incitement and Defamation of Public Officials under the First Amendment, by Joy Jiao
    • Read early draft here.
  • Difamación criminal y desacato en América (Spanish), by Alejandro Gutiérrez
    • Read early draft here.
  • The Leviathan's Thin Skin, by William Han
    • Read early draft here.

Compendium of Incitement and Official Defamation Laws

  • Incitement Laws 
    • Incitement laws in the Americas
      • See early draft on incitement laws in democracies here.
      • See early draft on incitement laws in competitive authoritarian regimes here.
      • See early draft on incitement laws in fully authoritarian regimes here.
    • Incitement laws in Europe and post-Soviet states
      • See early draft on incitement laws in democracies here.
      • See early draft on incitement laws in competitive authoritarian regimes here.
      • See early draft on incitement laws in fully authoritarian regimes here.
    • Incitement statutes and case law in the Middle East and North Africa
      • See early draft here.
    • Incitement statutes and case law in Asia
      • See early draft here.
  • Official Defamation Laws
    • Official defamation laws in the Americas
      • See early draft on criminal defamation here.
      • See early draft on contempt or "desacato" laws here.
      • See early draft on repealed contempt or "desacato" laws here.
      • See early draft on defamation of public institutions here.
      • See early draft on the crime of offending national symbols here
    • Official defamation statutes and case law in the Middle East and North Africa
      • See early draft here.
    • Official defamation statutes and case law in Asia
      • See early draft here.
  • Preliminary Observations on Incitement and Official Defamation Laws and Cases
    • See preliminary observations on laws and cases in Asia here.
    • See preliminary observations on laws and cases in the Middle East and North Africa here.
    • See preliminary observations on laws and cases in the Americas here.

Press Releases

  • Central and South Asia
    • HRF to Maldives: Release Mohamed Nasheed, the Country’s First Democratically-Elected President
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Kazakhstan: Drop Criminal Defamation Charges Against News Editor
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Kyrgyzstan: Release Human Rights Defender and Journalist Azimjan Askarov
      • Read this release here.
    • Maldives: HRF Asks President Yameen to Veto Defamation Bill
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Kazakhstan: Pardon Opposition Leader Vladimir Kozlov
      • Read this release here.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
    • HRF to the Comoros: Release Activist Mohamed Mchangama and Drop Incitement Charges Against Him
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF Welcomes the Release of Swazi Lawyer Thulani Maseko
      • Read this release here.
    • Zimbabwe: HRF Welcomes Dropped Charges Against Mawarire; Urges Authorities to Stop Arbitrary Arrests
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Gabon: Stop Violence Against Peaceful Protesters; Release Youth Activists and Union Leaders
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Angola: Withdraw Secret Social Media Bill
      • Read this release here.
  • East Asia and the Pacific
    • Oslo Freedom Forum Speaker Arrested in Malaysia
      • Read this release here.
    • Malaysia: HRF Condemns Malaysian Court’s Dismissal of Challenge to Sedition Act
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Burma: End discrimination of the Rohingya people, drop incitement charges against publishers
      • Read this release here.
    • China: HRF Urges the Release of Human Rights Lawyers Arbitrarily Detained
      • Read this release here.
    • China: HRF Demands the Release of Rights Lawyer’s Teenage Son
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Cambodia: Stop Harassing “Black Monday” Protesters and Release Political Prisoners
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Cambodia: Drop Defamation, Incitement Lawsuit Against Opposition Leader
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF Welcomes UN Special Rapporteur’s Opinion Limiting Broad “Hate Speech” Prohibition
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Thailand: Overturn Guilty Verdict of British Activist
      • Read this release here.
  • Middle East and North Africa
    • HRF to Bahrain and Burundi: Dismiss Cases Against Human Rights Defenders
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Saudi Arabia: Lift Travel Ban Against Samar Badawi
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Bahrain: Release Nabeel Rajab and Drop Incitement Charges Against Him
      • Read this release here.
    • Bahrain: Release Ebrahim Sharif; Drop Incitement Charges Against Him
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF Urges U.S. to Press Saudi Arabia’s King to Halt the Execution of Cleric Sheikh Al-Nimr
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Azerbaijan: Drop Charges Against Human Rights Activists
      • Read this release here.
    • Saudi Arabia: HRF Publishes Legal Report on Waleed Abu al-Khair; Appeals to UN for His Release
      • Read this release here.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
    • HRF to Ecuador’s High Court: Overturn $40 Million Verdict Against Palacio and El Universo (2011)
      • Read this release here.
    • Ecuador: High Court Confirms Prison and $40M Fine for Journalist Critical of President (2012)
      • Read this release here.
    • Venezuela: HRF Condemns $365 Million Lawsuit by Diosdado Cabello Against Independent Media
      • Read this release here.
    • Venezuela: HRF Declares Leopoldo López a Prisoner of Conscience and Calls for His Immediate Release
      • Read this release here.
    • Venezuela: HRF Condemns Torture of Students and Calls for Their Immediate Release
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Raúl Castro: Dismiss Case Against Tania Bruguera
      • Read this release here.
    • Venezuela Twitter Crackdown: HRF Condemns Targeted Data Collection by Political Police
      • Read this release here
    • HRF to Cuba: Free El Sexto
      • Read this release here.
    • HRF to Cuba: End Harassment and Legal Persecution Against El Sexto
      • Read this release here.
    • Venezuela: HRF Condemns Prison Sentence Against Journalist Who Denounced Corruption
      • Read this release here.
    • Venezuela: HRF Condemns Sham Appellate Proceedings; Requests Release of Prisoner of Conscience
      • Read this release here.