Freedom of Expression

Materials  |  Audio  |  Poll  | Links to Principles of DemocracyResources  


Should our democracy block Internet content to protect national security?

In April 2010, the group called Wikileaks released a shocking video on the Internet. The video showed a U.S. military helicopter shooting at people on the ground in Iraq. This shooting killed 12 people. Two of those killed were journalists. This incident happened in 2007. The U.S. military had kept it secret.

Materials (pdf)

Freedom of Expression—Lesson:








Links to Principles of Democracy

The nature of democracy changes and grows along with its citizenry, but it’s always based on principles that help citizens modify, uphold, and strengthen their democracy. Visit the DDA Democratic Principles and Activities page to learn more about the principles underlying democracy and gain access to activities that help students understand the complexity of democracy. 

We’ve identified some democratic principles addressed in this lesson “Should our democracy block Internet content to protect national security?” What principles might you add to the list below?

Please here for a pdf of the fourteen principles handout on our Democratic Principles & Activities page.



In a democracy elected and appointed officials are responsible for their actions and have to be accountable to the people. Officials must make decisions and perform their duties according to the will and wishes of the people they represent, not for themselves or their friends.

Bill of Rights


Bill of Rights
Most democratic countries have a list of citizens’ rights and freedoms.  Often called a “Bill of Rights,” this document limits the power of government and explains the freedoms that are guaranteed to all people in the country.  It protects people from a government that might abuse its powers.  When a Bill of Rights becomes part of a country’s constitution, the courts have the power to enforce these rights.

Citizen Participation


Citizen Participation
One of the most basic principles of a democracy is citizen participation in government. Participation is more than just a right—it is a duty. Citizen participation may take many forms, including running for election, voting in elections, becoming informed, debating issues, attending community meetings, being members of private voluntary organizations, paying taxes, serving on a jury, and even protesting.  Citizen participation builds a better democracy.

Human Rights


Human Rights
All democracies strive to value human life and dignity and to respect and protect the human rights of citizens.  Examples include, but are not limited to the following:

Movement: Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of his or her country. Everyone has the right to leave and to return to his or her country.  (Article 13, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Religion: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.  This right includes freedom to change his or her religion and to worship alone or in community with others. It also includes the right to not worship or hold religious beliefs.  (Article 18, UDHR)

Speech: 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 with others. (Article19. UDHR)

Assembly: Everyone has the right to organize peaceful meetings or to take part in meetings in a peaceful way. It is undemocratic to force someone to belong to a political group or to attend political meetings or rallies. (Article 20, UDHR)


transparency Transparency 
For government to be accountable, the people must be aware of the actions their government is taking.  A transparent government holds public meetings and allows citizens to attend. In a democracy the press and the people are able to get information about what decisions are being made, by whom, and why.


Selected Resources

American Convention on Human Rights (Washington, DC: Organization of American States, entered into force July 18, 1978), (accessed July 5, 2011).

Barbour, Scott, Censorship: Opposing Viewpoints (Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2010).

Blankley, Tony, “Yes, We Need Censorship,” The Washington Times (February 12, 2009), (accessed July 18, 2011).

Bauml, Jessica E., “It’s a Mad, Mad Internet: Globalization and the Challenges Presented by Internet Censorship,” Federal Communications Law Journal (May 2011).

“Computer Fraud and Abuse Act” [18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(1)], in Prosecuting Computer Crimes, Scott Eltringham, ed. (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Criminal Division, 2010), (accessed July 18, 2011).

Fildes, Jonathan, “What Is Wikileaks?” BBC News (December 7, 2010), (accessed 7 July 2011).
“Gov’t Backtracks, Restores License for Radio La Voz,” Peruvian Times (August 20, 2010), (accessed July 18, 2011).

Kravets, David, “Wikileaks Exposes Australian Web Blacklist,” Wired (March 19, 2009), (accessed July 18, 2011).

Legislaciones Nacionales/National Legislation (Washington, DC: Organization of American State, n.d.), (accessed July 18, 2011).

Leverett, Flint, and Hillary Mann. “Redacted Version of Original Op-Ed,” The New York Times (December 22, 2006),
(accessed July 18, 2011).

“Many Governments Use Internet to ‘Curtail Freedom of Expression,’” MercoPress (March 11, 2010),
of-expression (accessed July 18, 2011).

“Mexico,” Cybercrime Law, (accessed July 6, 2011).

Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, 2010 Special Report on Freedom of Expression in Mexico (Washington, DC: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2011).

“Rapporteurs Want New Laws for Freedom of Expression on the Internet,” The Gleaner (February 10, 2011),
(accessed July 18, 2011).

Sasaki, David, “Internet Censorship and Freedom of Expression in Latin America,” Technology and Civil Society in Latin America (New York: Información Cívica, 2010), (accessed July 18, 2011).

Valdés Cortés, Margarita, “Internet Censorship Around the World,” Internet Society, (accessed June 28, 2011).

Zuchora-Walske, Christina, Internet Censorship: Protecting Citizens or Trampling Freedom? (Breckinridge, CO: Twenty First Century Books, 2010).