Terrorist Speech and the Future of Free Expression

110 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2014 Last revised: 29 Oct 2015

See all articles by Laura Donohue

Laura Donohue

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: 2005


The crucial point is this: Both liberal, democratic states, and non-state terrorist organizations need free speech. Prominent scholars have written elegantly and at length on the role of this liberty for the former. While their arguments surface at times in the text, the author does not dwell on them. Instead, she wrestles with the question: Under what circumstances are the interests of the state secured and the opportunism of terrorist organizations avoided? Here, the experiences of the United States and United Kingdom prove instructive. On both sides of the Atlantic, where the state acts as sovereign, efforts to restrict persuasive political speech have relaxed over time to allow for more criticism. In the United States, Brandenburg v. Ohio cemented this shift. In the United Kingdom, change came gradually. The practical elimination of treason and seditious libel, and incorporation of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic law through the 1998 Human Rights Act (HRA), marked the transition. If free speech remains central to our understanding of liberal democracy, it would nevertheless be naive to rely on these alterations to protect expression in the contemporary counter-terrorist environment-regardless of how remarkable they might be in the context of what went before.

Keywords: freedom of speech, terrorist speech, persuasive speech

JEL Classification: K00, K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Donohue, Laura, Terrorist Speech and the Future of Free Expression (2005). Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 27, pp. 233-341, 2005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2443917

Laura Donohue (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202 662-9282 (Phone)
202 662-9282 (Fax)

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