Centre for Communication Governance at NLU delhi
Classical Defences of Freedom of Speech

John Milton, Areopagitica (1644) [open access]

This is a polemical tract in defence of press freedoms, and free speech generally, on philosophical grounds.

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Jeremy Bentham, Liberty of the Press and Public Discussion (Letters) (1843) [open access]

Bentham’s statement of press freedom argues to permit political associations/assemblies in public and resistance to governmental authority as a check to abuse of power. Special mention of permitting criticism, including of state officials, and a discussion of how sedition and defamation of public officials should be addressed.

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J.S. Mill, Chapter II: Of Liberty of Thought and Discussion in On Liberty (1859) [open access]

Mill argues for limited governmental intervention in silencing or compelling speech, emphasizes the value of contrary and minority opinions and presents a principle on which any governmental action in respect of speech should be based.

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Walter Bagehot, The Metaphysical Basis of Toleration (1874) [restricted access]

Bagehot argues for toleration by the state and under law of a diversity of opinions, and argues that discussions and exchange of opinions must be in pursuit of uncovering truths.

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George Orwell, The Freedom of the Press (intended as the Preface to George Orwell, The Animal Farm (1945) [open access]

Originally intended as the preface to Animal Farm, discusses the motivations to self-censorship in literary endeavours.

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