The Oxford University in the United Kingdom has launched a website to facilitate discussions on issues of free speech in all parts of the world. The website, www.freespeechdebate.com, is a global, multilingual platform for the discussion of free speech in the age of globalisation and the internet. The website is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony’s College in the University of Oxford. Ten draft principles for global free speech are laid out on the website, together with explanations and case studies – all for debate.
According to Mr. Timothy Garton Ash, the Director of Free Speech Debate “prominent figures from diverse cultures, faiths and political tendencies are interviewed and asked to comment, through video, audio and text.”
Among such prominent figures who have been interviewed, are the inventor of the World Wide Web, Mr. Tim Berners-Lee, on the power of the internet; and the director of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre in Hong Kong, Ying Chan.
Other prominent figures are the director of the Moral Courage Project and author Irshad Manji on what respect for Muslims should mean; and human rights expert and former President of the Open Society Foundations, Aryeh Neier, on the universality of free speech.
They also include Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, on the media and national security in India; Iranian cleric Mohsen Kadivar, on Islam and the criminalization of insults to religion; Chinese academic Yan Xuetong, on universal values; former head of the Formula One association, Max Mosley, on privacy and Egyptian scholar Khaled Fahmy, on freedom of expression in Egypt.
Explaining the project to Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Mr. Ash said: “By now we have 74 case studies from 27 countries, 59 discussion pieces, 57 audio-visual contributions, and subscribers from more than 80 countries.”
According to Mr. Ash, “The project is programmatically dedicated to taking the free speech debate beyond the west and global north, into the east and south. All editorial content is carefully translated into 13 languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish and Urdu) by native-speakers of those languages – mainly graduate students at Oxford University”.
Mr. Ash said anyone could contribute to the online discussion in these, or in any other languages, and that there is a facility to give a rough translation of every user–generated comment into most other languages using machine translation.
He explained that the website is actively moderated by, and the original content generated by, an international team at Oxford University, working under his leadership.