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Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)—Article 19 states that "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".
Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. The term freedom of expression is usually used synonymously but, in legal sense, includes any activity of seeking, receiving, and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.
The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that "everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "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". The version of Article 19 in the ICCPR later amends this by stating that the exercise of these rights carries "special duties and responsibilities" and may "therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary "[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others" or "[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals". (Full article...)
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The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (c.23) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that protects whistleblowers from detrimental treatment by their employer. Influenced by various financial scandals and accidents, along with the report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the bill was introduced to Parliament by Richard Shepherd and given government support, on the condition that it become an amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996. After receiving the Royal Assent on 2 July 1998, the Act came into force on 2 July 1999. It protects employees who make disclosures of certain types of information, including evidence of illegal activity or damage to the environment, from retribution from their employers, such as dismissal or being passed over for promotion. In cases where such retribution takes place the employee may bring a case before an employment tribunal, which can award compensation. As a result of the Act, many more employers have instituted internal whistleblowing procedures, although only 38 percent of individuals surveyed worked for a company with such procedures in place. The Act has been criticised for failing to force employers to institute such a policy, containing no provisions preventing the "blacklisting" of employees who make such disclosures, and failing to protect the employee from libel proceedings should his allegation turn out to be false.
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Sir Edward Coke SL PC (1 February 1552 – 3 September 1634) was an English barrister, judge and politician considered to be the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. Born into a middle class family, Coke was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge before leaving to study at the Inner Temple, where he was called to the Bar on 20 April 1578. As a barrister he took part in several notable cases, including Slade's Case, before earning enough political favour to be returned to Parliament, where he served first as Solicitor General and then as Speaker of the House of Commons. Following a promotion to Attorney General he led the prosecution in several notable cases, including Robert Devereux, Sir Walter Raleigh and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. As a reward for his services he was first knighted, and then made Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.
As Chief Justice, Coke restricted the use of the ex officio oath and, in the Case of Proclamations and Dr. Bonham's Case, declared the King to be subject to the law, and the laws of Parliament to be void if in violation of "common right and reason". These actions eventually led to his transfer to the Chief Justiceship of the King's Bench, where it was felt he could do less damage. Coke then successively restricted the definition of treason and declared a royal letter illegal, leading to his dismissal from the bench on 14 November 1616. With no chance of regaining his judicial posts, he instead returned to Parliament, where he swiftly became a leading member of the opposition. During his time as an MP he wrote and campaigned for the Statute of Monopolies, which substantially restricted the ability of the monarch to grant patents, and authored and was instrumental in the passage of the Petition of Right, a document considered one of the three crucial constitutional documents of England, along with the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights 1689. With the passage of the Petition of Right in 1628, Coke retired to his estates, where he revised and finished his Reports and the Institutes of the Lawes of England before dying on 3 September 1634.
Coke is best known in modern times for his Institutes, described by John Rutledge as "almost the foundations of our law", and his Reports, which have been called "perhaps the single most influential series of named reports". Historically, he was a highly influential judge; within England and Wales, his statements and works were used to justify the right to silence, while the Statute of Monopolies is considered to be one of the first actions in the conflict between Parliament and monarch that led to the English Civil War. In America, Coke's decision in Dr. Bonham's Case was used to justify the voiding of the Stamp Act 1765 and writs of assistance, which led to the American War of Independence, and after the establishment of the United States his decisions and writings profoundly influenced the Third and Fourth amendments to the United States Constitution while necessitating the Sixteenth.
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Under our First Amendment, a censorship law would have to be written in broad general language and could not be directed at specific religious, ethnic, racial, or political groups. Any such law could be misused by politicians to censor their political enemies or other "undesirable" groups.
Alan Dershowitz, 2008
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