A commitment to freedom of speech – albeit by no means always regarded as a universal right – has been a central feature of all progressive societies from classical times onwards.
The Athenians not only attached huge significance to the art of rhetoric and those who mastered it but also, as embodied in the teachings of Socrates in particular, to the power of argument as a means of reaching right and just judgement.
The Roman Republic prized, at least for its citizens, freedom of speech and religion and early Islam embraced both rights, preferring persuasion to force as a means of conversion and founding some the world’s oldest universities on the principles.
Freedom of speech, at least for some, was a key feature of Britain’s Bill of Rights of 1689 and, more universally a century later, of the tenets of the French Revolution and the American Constition.
And throughout history, artists and philosophers, politicians and poets, reformers and revolutionaries have striven for and spoken and written about freedom of speech both as an individual necessity and a human right.