Against Silence: Freedom of Expression in Europe

Miklós Haraszti and Agnieszka Holland in Conversation with Claire Fox

Freedom of expression is under siege all over the world today. New democracies in eastern and central Europe, which only three decades ago waged a struggle against the totalitarian policing of thought are today attacking freedom of speech and of media. But oppressive governments are not the only ones keen to keep us silent. Censorship from below too is on rise across Europe. Offended ethnic or religious groups try to mute those whose viewpoints they do not share. On the other hand, we see the language of political correctness being cracked open, as writers, cartoonists and journalists alike insist on their »right to offend«. Where does Europe stand in the debate on freedom of expression? What are the limits of freedom of speech, and should there be any at all?

Miklós Haraszti is a writer, journalist, human rights advocate and university professor. His internationally acclaimed book The Velvet Prison: Artists Under State Socialism (1983) reveals the censorship and self-censorship mechanisms at play in Communist Hungary. Founder of Hungary’s democracy and free press movement in the 1970s, in the 1990s Haraszti authored the country’s first laws on press freedom. From 2004 to 2010, he was representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Currently he is UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Belarus. Miklós Haraszti is an Adjunct Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia Law School, New York.

Agnieszka Holland is a Polish-French film director and screenwriter, one of Poland’s most eminent filmmakers, renown for her political contributions to Polish New Wave cinema. Holland has directed more than twenty films, including Europa, Europa (1991), Total Eclipse (1995), Washington square (1997). She has been nominated for an Emmy award for Treme (2010), and for Oscars for Angry Harvest (1985), Europa, Europa (1990), and In Darkness (2011). TV series lovers know her as one of the directors of the House of Cards series. Currently Agnieszka Holland is chair of the European Film Academy board.

Claire Fox (chair) is the founder and director of the Institute of Ideas (IoI) in London. She convenes the Battle of ideas festival, taking place yearly in London since 2005. She co-founded the IoI’s residential summer school and initiated the Institute of Ideas Debating Matters Competition for high school students. Claire is a panelist on BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, a columnist for Times Education Supplement and Municipal Journal, and is regularly commenting on culture, education and the media on TV and radio programs such as Question Time and Any Questions? An important voice in the British freedom of speech debate, her new book I find that offensive comes out in May 2016 (Biteback, London).

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