The Westminster Declaration

International Manifest for the freedom of speech

We write as journalists, artists, authors, activists, technologists, and academics to warn of increasing international censorship that threatens to erode centuries-old democratic norms.
  Coming from the left, right, and centre, we are united by our commitment to universal human rights and freedom of speech, and we are all deeply concerned about attempts to label protected speech as “misinformation”, “disinformation”, and other ill-defined terms.
  This abuse of these terms has resulted in the censorship of ordinary people, journalists, and dissidents in countries all over the world.
  Such interference with the right to free speech suppresses valid discussion about matters of urgent public interest, and undermines the foundational principles of representative democracy.
  Across the globe, government actors, social media companies, universities, and NGOs are increasingly working to monitor citizens and rob them of their voices. These large-scale coordinated efforts are sometimes referred to as the “Censorship-Industrial Complex”.
  This complex often operates through direct government policies. Authorities in India1 and Turkey2 have seized the power to remove political content from social media. The legislature in Germany3 and the Supreme Court in Brazil4 are criminalising political speech. In other countries, measures such as Ireland’s “Hate Speech” Bill5, Scotland’s “Hate Crime” Act6, the UK’s Online Safety Bill7, and Australia’s “Misinformation” Bill8 threaten to severely restrict expression and create a chilling effect.
  But the Censorship Industrial Complex operates through more subtle methods. These include visibility filtering, labelling, and manipulation of search engine results. Through deplatforming and flagging, social media censors have already silenced lawful opinions on topics of national and geopolitical importance. They have done so with the full support of “disinformation experts” and “fact-checkers” in the mainstream media, who have abandoned the journalistic values of debate and intellectual inquiry.
  As the Twitter Files revealed, tech companies often perform censorial “content moderation” in coordination with government agencies and civil society. Soon, the European Union’s Digital Services Act will formalise this relationship by giving platform data to “vetted researchers” from NGOs and academia, relegating our speech rights to the discretion of these unelected and unaccountable entities.
 Some politicians and NGOs9 are even aiming to target end-to-end encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram.10 If end-to-end encryption is broken, we will have no remaining avenues for authentic private conversations in the digital sphere.
  Although foreign disinformation between states is a real issue, agencies designed to combat these threats, such as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the United States, are increasingly being turned inward against the public. Under the guise of preventing harm and protecting truth, speech is being treated as a permitted activity rather than an inalienable right.
  We recognise that words can sometimes cause offence, but we reject the idea that hurt feelings and discomfort, even if acute, are grounds for censorship. Open discourse is the central pillar of a free society, and is essential for holding governments accountable, empowering vulnerable groups, and reducing the risk of tyranny.
  Speech protections are not just for views we agree with; we must strenuously protect speech for the views that we most strongly oppose. Only in the public square can these views be heard and properly challenged.
  What’s more, time and time again, unpopular opinions and ideas have eventually become conventional wisdom. By labelling certain political or scientific positions as “misinformation” or “malinformation”, our societies risk getting stuck in false paradigms that will rob humanity of hard-earned knowledge and obliterate the possibility of gaining new knowledge. Free speech is our best defence against disinformation.
  The attack on speech is not just about distorted rules and regulations – it is a crisis of humanity itself. Every equality and justice campaign in history has relied on an open forum to voice dissent. In countless examples, including the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement, social progress has depended on freedom of expression.
  We do not want our children to grow up in a world where they live in fear of speaking their minds. We want them to grow up in a world where their ideas can be expressed, explored and debated openly – a world that the founders of our democracies envisioned when they enshrined free speech into our laws and constitutions.
  The US First Amendment is a strong example of how the right to freedom of speech, of the press, and of conscience can be firmly protected under the law. One need not agree with the U.S. on every issue to acknowledge that this is a vital “first liberty” from which all other liberties follow. It is only through free speech that we can denounce violations of our rights and fight for new freedoms.
  There also exists a clear and robust international protection for free speech. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)11 was drafted in 1948 in response to atrocities committed during World War II. Article 19 of the UDHR states, “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.” While there may be a need for governments to regulate some aspects of social media, such as age limits, these regulations should never infringe on the human right to freedom of expression.
  As is made clear by Article 19, the corollary of the right to free speech is the right to information. In a democracy, no one has a monopoly over what is considered to be true. Rather, truth must be discovered through dialogue and debate – and we cannot discover truth without allowing for the possibility of error.
  Censorship in the name of “preserving democracy” inverts what should be a bottom-up system of representation into a top-down system of ideological control. This censorship is ultimately counter-productive: it sows mistrust, encourages radicalisation, and de-legitimises the democratic process.
  In the course of human history, attacks on free speech have been a precursor to attacks on all other liberties. Regimes that eroded free speech have always inevitably weakened and damaged other core democratic structures. In the same fashion, the elites that push for censorship today are also undermining democracy. What has changed though, is the broad scale and technological tools through which censorship can be enacted.

  • We believe that free speech is essential for ensuring our safety from state abuses of power – abuses that have historically posed a far greater threat than the words of lone individuals or even organised groups. For the sake of human welfare and flourishing, we make the following three calls to action.
  • We call on governments and international organisations to fulfil their responsibilities to the people and to uphold Article 19 of the UDHR. 
  • We call on tech corporations to undertake to protect the digital public square as defined in Article 19 of the UDHR and refrain from politically motivated censorship, the censorship of dissenting voices, and censorship of political opinion.
  • And finally, we call on the general public to join us in the fight to preserve the people’s democratic rights. Legislative changes are not enough. We must also build an atmosphere of free speech from the ground up by rejecting the climate of intolerance that encourages self-censorship and that creates unnecessary personal strife for many. Instead of fear and dogmatism, we must embrace inquiry and debate.

We stand for your right to ask questions. Heated arguments, even those that may cause distress, are far better than no arguments at all.
  Censorship robs us of the richness of life itself. Free speech is the foundation for creating a life of meaning and a thriving humanity - through art, poetry, drama, story, philosophy, song, and more.
  This declaration was the result of an initial meeting of free speech champions from around the world who met in Westminster, London, at the end of June 2023. As signatories of this statement, we have fundamental political and ideological disagreements. However, it is only by coming together that we will defeat the encroaching forces of censorship so that we can maintain our ability to openly debate and challenge one another. It is in the spirit of difference and debate that we sign the Westminster Declaration.

Matt Taibbi, Journalist, USA; Michael Shellenberger, Public, USA; Jonathan Haidt, Social Psychologist, NYU, USA; John McWhorter, Linguist, Columbia, Author, USA; Steven Pinker, Psychologist, Harvard, USA; Julian Assange, Editor, Founder of Wikileaks, Australia; Tim Robbins, Actor, Filmmaker, USA; Nadine Strossen, Professor of Law, NYLS, USA; Glenn Loury, Economist, USA; Richard Dawkins, Biologist, UK; John Cleese, Comedian, Acrobat, UK; Slavoj Žižek, Philosopher, Author, Slovenia; Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University, USA; Oliver Stone, Filmmaker, USA; Edward Snowden, Whistleblower, USA; Greg Lukianoff, President and CEO Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, USA; Stella Assange, Campaigner, UK; Glenn Greenwald, Journalist, USA; Claire Fox, Founder of the Academy of Ideas, UK; Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, Psychologist, Author, Canada; Bari Weiss, Journalist, USA; Peter Hitchens, Author, Journalist, UK; Niall Ferguson, Historian, Stanford, UK; Matt Ridley, Journalist, Author, UK; Melissa Chen, Journalist, Spectator, Singapore/USA; Yanis Varoufakis, Economist, Greece; Peter Boghossian, Philosopher, Founding Faculty Fellow, University of Austin, USA; Michael Shermer, Science Writer, USA; Alan Sokal, Professor of Mathematics, UCL, UK; Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology, Oxford, UK; Jay Bhattacharya, Professor, Stanford, USA; Martin Kulldorff, Professor of Medicine (on leave), Harvard, USA; Aaron Kheiriaty, Psychiatrist, Author, USA; Chris Hedges, Journalist, Author, USA; Lee Fang, Independent Journalist, USA; Alex Gutentag, Journalist, USA; Iain McGilchrist, Psychiatrist, Philosopher, UK; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Human Rights Activist, Author, Netherlands; Konstantin Kisin, Author, UK; Leighton Woodhouse, Public, USA; Andrew Lowenthal, liber-net, Australia; Aaron Mate, Journalist, USA; Izabella Kaminska, Journalist, The Blind Spot, UK; Nina Power, Writer, UK; Kmele Foster, Journalist, Media Entrepreneur, USA; Toby Young, Journalist, Free Speech Union, UK; Winston Marshall, Journalist, The Spectator, UK; Jacob Siegel, Tablet, USA/Israel; Ulrike Guerot, Founder of European Democracy Lab, Germany; Heather E. Heying, Evolutionary Biologist, USA; Bret Weinstein, Evolutionary Biologist, USA; Martina Pastorelli, Independent Journalist, Italy; Leandro Narloch, Independent Journalist, Brazil; Ana Henkel, Independent Journalist, Brazil; Mia Ashton, Journalist, Canada; Micha Narberhaus, The Protopia Lab, Spain/Germany; Alex Sheridan, Free Speech Ireland; Ben Scallan, Gript Media, Ireland; Thomas Fazi, Independent Journalist, Italy; Jean F. Queralt, Technologist, Founder @The IO Foundation, Malaysia/Spain; Phil Shaw, Campaigner, Operation People, New Zealand; Jeremy Hildreth, Independent, UK; Craig Snider, Independent, USA; Eve Kay, TV Producer, UK; Helen Joyce, Journalist, UK; Dietrich Brüggemann, Filmmaker, Germany; Adam B. Coleman, Founder of Wrong Speak Publishing, USA; Helen Pluckrose, Author, UK; Michael Nayna, Filmmaker, Australia; Paul Rossi, Educator, Vertex Partnership Academics, USA; Juan Carlos Girauta, Politician, Spain; Andrew Neish, KC, UK; Steven Berkoff, Actor, Playright, UK; Patrik Hughes, Artist, UK; Adam Creighton, Journalist, Australia; Julia Hartley-Brewer, Journalist, UK; Robert Cibis, Filmmaker, Germany; Piers Robinson, Organization for Propaganda Studies, UK; Dirk Pohlmann, Journalist, Germany; Mathias Bröckers, Author, Journalist, Germany; Kira Phillips, Documentary Filmmaker, UK; Diane Atkinson, Historian, Biographer, UK; Eric Kaufmann, Professor of Politics, Birkbeck, University of Buckingham, Canada; Laura Dodsworth, Journalist and Author, UK; Nellie Bowles, Journalist, USA; Andrew Tettenborn, Professor of Law, Swansea University,UK; Julius Grower, Fellow, St. Hugh’s College, UK; Nick Dixon, Comedian, UK; Dominic Frisby, Comedian, UK; James Orr, Associate Professor, University of Cambridge, UK; Brendan O’Neill, Journalist, UK; Jan Jekielek, Journalist, Canada; Andrew Roberts, Historian, UK; Robert Tombs, Historian, UK; Ben Schwarz, Journalist, USA; Xavier Azalbert, Investigative Scientific Journalist, France; Doug Stokes, International Relations Professor, University of Exeter, UK; James Allan, Professor of Law, University of Queensland, UK; David McGrogan, Professor of Law, Northumbria University, UK; Jacob Mchangama, Author, Denmark; Nigel Biggar, Chairman, Free Speech Union, UK; David Goodhart, Journalist, Author, UK; Catherine Austin Fitts, The Solari Report, Netherlands; Matt Goodwin, Politics Professor, University of Kent, UK; Alan Miller, Together Association, UK; Catherine Liu, Cultural Theorist, Author, USA; Stefan Millius, Journalist, Switzerland; Philip Hamburger, Professor of Law, Columbia, USA; Rueben Kirkham, Co-Director, Free Speech Union of Australia, Australia; Jeffrey Tucker, Author, USA; Sarah Gon, Director, Free Speech Union, South Africa; Dara Macdonald, Co-Director, Free Speech Union, Australia; Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive, Free Speech Union, New Zealand; David Zweig, Journalist, Author, USA; Juan Soto Ivars, Author, Spain; Colin Wright, Evolutionary Biologist, USA; Gad Saad, Professor, Evolutionary Behavioral Scientist, Author, Canada; Robert W. Malone, MD, MS, USA; Jill Glasspool-Malone, PhD., USA; Jordi Pigem, Philosopher, Author, Spain; Holly Lawford-Smith, Associate Professor in Political Philosophy, University of Melbourne, Australia; Michele Santoro, Journalist, TV Host, Presenter, Italy; Dr James Smith, Podcaster, Literature Scholar, RHUL, UK; Francis Foster, Comedian, UK; Coleman Hughes, Writer, Podcaster, USA; Marco Bassani, Political Theorist, Historian, Milan University, Italy; Isabella Loiodice, Professor of Comparative Public Law, University of Bari, Italy; Luca Ricolfi, Professor, Sociologist, Turin University, Italy; Marcello Foa, Journalist, Former President of Rai, Italy; Andrea Zhok, Philosopher, University of Milan, Italy; Paolo Cesaretti, Professor of Byzantine Civilization, University of Bergamo, Italy; Alberto Contri, Mass Media Expert, Italy; Carlo Lottieri, Philosopher, University of Verona, Italy; Alessandro Di Battista, Political Activist, Writer, Italy; Paola Mastrocola, Writer, Italy; Carlo Freccero, Television Author, Media Expert, Italy; Giorgio Bianchi, Independent Journalist, Italy; Nello Preterossi, Professor, University of Salerno, Scientific Director of the Italian Institute for Philosophical Studies, Italy; Efrat Fenigson, Journalist, Podcaster, Israel; Eli Vieira, Journalist, Genetic Biologist, Brazil; Stephen Moore, Author and Analyst, Canada

Source: of October 2023

1 Pahwa, Nitish. “Twitter Blocked a Country.” Slate Magazine, 1 April 2023,
2 Stein, Perry. “Twitter Says It Will Restrict Access to Some Tweets before Turkey’s Election.” The Washington Post, 15 May 2023,
3 Hänel, Lisa. “Germany criminalizes denying war crimes, genocide.” Deutsche Welle, 25 November 2022,
4 Savarese, Mauricio / Goodman, Joshua. “Crusading Judge Tests Boundaries of Free Speech in Brazil.” AP News, 26 January 2023,
5 Nanu, Maighna. “Irish People Could Be Jailed for ‘Hate Speech’, Critics of Proposed Law Warn.” The Telegraph, 17 June 2023,
6 The Economist Newspaper. (n.d.). “Scotland’s new hate crime act will have a chilling effect on free speech.” The Economist.
7 Lomas, Natasha. “Security Researchers Latest to Blast UK’s Online Safety Bill as Encryption Risk”. TechCrunch, 5 July 2023,
8 Al-Nashar, Nabil. “Millions of Dollars in Fines to Punish Online Misinformation under New Draft Bill.” ABC News, 25 June 2023,
9 "Cryptochat.” Meedan, Accessed 8 July 2023
10 Lomas, Natasha. ”Security Researchers Latest to Blast UK’s Online Safety Bill as Encryption Risk.” TechCrunch, 5 July 2023,
11 United Nations General Assembly. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). New York: United Nations General Assembly, 1948.

Freedom of speech in international declarations and treaties

Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948

“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.”

Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights of 1950

“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are 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.”

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966

“1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. 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.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.”

A counter-public can be hindered with bans, but not be suffocated

Zitate aus dem Buch «Zensur» von Hannes Hofbauer*

“Compensating for the loss of trust with coercive measures is one of the oldest techniques of rule, used by church leaders and monarchs in the past as well as by governments and leading media houses today. They all respond to the loss of a customary hegemony of discourse by banning publications. Affected are positions questioning the prevailing narrative which also have the potential for widespread dissemination. This is precisely our current situation. The return of censorship is rooted in the economic weakness of the transatlantic region. In its decline, the establishment is struggling for its raison d’être. The more successfully a counter-public can be created, the more aggressively it is countered by Brussels or Berlin. State truth watchdogs and Californian media monopolies have developed a new, joint practice of deleting and blocking content, for which they pass the buck to each other; we are experiencing the censorship practices of the post-industrial, digital-cybernetic age.” (From the foreword)

“It is precisely the realisation of the geopolitical and economic decline that is reflected in the question of how to deal with free speech. The consolidation of the Eurasian region, which is perceived as a threat in Washington, Brussels and Berlin, has long since had an impact on culture and discourse. The value discourse of the former political ‘West’, fuelled by missionary zeal, is becoming increasingly implausible in the face of changing power relations on a global scale. [...] In order to halt this loss, Brussels in particular has set out to provide the EU-European peoples with truth decrees, initially concealed and later increasingly openly formulated, so that the historical, political and cultural interpretation of the self-portrayal dominates the discursive terrain with as few alternatives as possible.” (p. 123)

“Censorship and publication bans, as drastic as they are in hindering the necessary social discourse and as much as they damage it – which is their intention – are only a sign of weakness once a certain point is reached. Of course, there is no recipe for when this point is reached. It will inevitably have to be found between the measures of the censors and the activities of the censored.” (p. 237)

“And so, the concluding message of this book, which has observed publication bans throughout the centuries, is that a counter-public to the imperial discourse can be hindered by bans, but not be suffocated.” (p. 241)

(Translation Current Concerns)

* Hofbauer, Hannes. Zensur. Publikationsverbote im Spiegel der Geschichte. Vom kirchlichen Index zur YouTube-Löschung. (Censorship. Publication bans as reflected in history. From the ecclesiastical index to YouTube censorship.) Promedia-Verlag Vienna 2022, ISBN 978-3-85371-497-3

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