Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares: "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 we all might like to be able to express ourselves freely, it is a surprising and radical notion that everyone should have a right to exchange information and ideas. In practice, everyone agrees that these rights, if they exist, are not unlimited. Some information and ideas are protected as the property of individuals or institutions: others may be interdicted on the grounds that disseminating them would be harmful – obscenity, libel, incitements to violence are examples. In any case, can speech ever actually be free? Who are the advocates and who are the enemies of free expression, what are its benefits and risks, and who decides its limits?
To answer at least some of these questions, Douglas Kerr talks today with Simon Young, Professor and Associate Dean of Law at Hong Kong University and a specialist in constitutional and human rights law, and Chris Hutton, Professor of English at HKU, a scholar of language, politics and law and a historian of ideas.