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Freedom of Expression: Study Questions

Suggested Review Questions and Activities

Teachers: The following are questions and activities that can be given to your students after they read the materials in each section. The questions are meant to be asked as a review exercise, although some encourage critical thinking as well. The activities can be presented as classroom exercises or as individual homework assignments. Unlike the questions, they tend to require additional research. Some call for students to create mock trials or debates that would engage the entire class. Both the questions and the activities are formatted so that they might be used directly by students, although you may rewrite them as you feel necessary.

Essential Principles


Is it possible to restrict speech completely? Find examples of free expression within totalitarian countries. What methods have been used by writers and scholars to continue their work?


Design a scenario for restricting free speech within a democratic country. Are there legitimate restrictions that might be placed on free speech? What political or judicial traditions, laws, and decisions exist to justify your restriction of speech?

Google and Yahoo! have agreed to allow their internet search engines to be censored in the People's Republic of China. Conduct background research on this issue and identify and debate the pros and cons of the companies' choices.



How have violence, recent acts of terrorism, and extremism affected politics in the Netherlands?


Imagine that you are an editor in the Netherlands prior to the Muhammad cartoon controversy, and you were given similar cartoons. Would you publish them? Why or why not? What if you personally found them offensive? Would you publish them even if you knew they would offend some of the readers? Set up a classroom trial and have different students take turns pretending to be an editor and defending their decisions for or against publication.



What role have the free media played recently in Ugandan politics?


President Museveni justifies his long tenure in office and restrictions on freedoms by arguing that they are necessary to prevent a return to dictatorship, such as under Idi Amin. Is this justification legitimate? Develop a position in favor of this argument. How do you justify limits on free speech? Develop a position against this argument that addresses the speech issue.



Many people believe that the internet will be a liberating force in the realm of freedom of expression. How have Chinese authorities successfully controlled the internet?


Research the demonstrations that took place in Beijing's Tiananmen Square and other Chinese cities in 1989. What prompted the demonstrations? How were they similar to Eastern European democracy movements?