Over 400 participants, who attended the conference on 13-14 October in Strasbourg, assessed the major challenges facing freedom of expression today.

The rich and intense debates raised real but constructive controversies regarding crucial issues concerning effective means for the preservation and protection of a free and safe environment for free expression. They assessed the extent to which Europe may be sliding towards criminalising free expression, when dealing with hate speech, and they considered how to fight terrorism whilst respecting free expression online – and what implications mass surveillance has for free expression.

These sensitive topics need to be tackled from new and specific angles to enable the exercise of freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Beyond the specific notions and tools of the legal tradition in member States, one of the key issues is to define how the system of the Convention can best defeat these challenges, which are increased due to the ever accelerating progress of technology.

The large and diverse group of participants had the opportunity to exchange views during six sessions:

  • Free and pluralist public debate, a precondition for democracy; how to create an enabling environment?
  • Freedom to “offend, shock or disturb”: where do we stand?
  • The fight against terrorism: are we all potential suspects?
  • Protecting freedom of expression online: what is the role of intermediaries?
  • Decrypting the implications and assessing the costs of mass surveillance on freedom of expression
  • Strengthening our commitment to freedom of expression in all contexts: Policies - Actions – Tools

The high level discussants – key speakers, panellists, as well as participants – enabled an open sincere dialogue, supported by press cartoonist Nicolas Vadot’s drawings.

Among them, next to the Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland, were attorney at Law of Charlie Hebdo, Richard Malka, Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks, OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, Turkey President of the Constitutional Court, Zühtü Arslan, German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights, Christoph Strässer, Former Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights, Françoise Tulkens and many others.

The debates will be summarised in a report due to be published in the coming weeks. They will nourish Council of Europe future works on freedom of expression and the multiple aspects of its protection and enjoyment.

Conference documents Conference documents
Conference recordings Conference recordings

13 October

14 October

“Interpretation serves to facilitate communication and does not constitute an authentic record of the proceedings. Only the original speech is authentic. No liability shall be incurred by the interpreter in the exercise of his/her function.”

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