Freedom of Speech in International Law

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This chapter traces the broad contours of the right to freedom of speech as it has evolved in international law, principally under Article 19(2) of the 1996 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR or ‘the Covenant’). Any speech protective principles deriving from the international jurisprudence are qualified by the following factors: The contextual contingency of the value of speech, the inherently limited reach of international scrutiny, the changing nature of the marketplace, and emerging forms of censorship. The chapter then outlines the key human rights treaty protections for freedom of speech, before further exploring the scope of the right. It examines the permissible grounds for speech restriction, highlighting two contested categories of speech—namely, incitement to hatred and glorification of terrorism—where international law not only concedes the low value of such speech, but specifically mandates its prohibition in domestic law. States that introduce broadly framed speech restrictions may claim to be acting in satisfaction of this prohibitory requirement. In consequence, the intensity of any ensuing international scrutiny will inevitably be substantially reduced.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Handbook on Freedom of Speech
EditorsFrederick Schauer, Adrienne Stone
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780198827580
ISBN (Print)9780198827580
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2021


  • Freedom of speech
  • Human rights treaty protections
  • International jurisprudence
  • International law
  • International scrutiny
  • Right to freedom of speech
  • Speech protective principles
  • Speech restrictions

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