English law has traditionally taken little or no notice of freedom of expression.' A right to free speech (or expression) was not typically recognised by common law, unlike, for example, the rights to property and reputation, which are fiercely protected by trespass and libel laws, respectively. There has been no English counterpart to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which bans any measure that restricts free speech or press. There isn't even a law like France's 1881 Law of the Press, which officially asserts press freedom and prohibits the licencing of newspapers and magazines. To be sure, there has been no system of official press censorship in place since 1694, and in fact, the media and private publishers in England have undoubtedly had more freedom of expression than in other European countries. Furthermore, as will be explained in Part II of this Article, courts in England, particularly in the last thirty years, have occasionally suggested that the common law did recognise freedom of speech, and that the right could be invoked to shape the interpretation and development of both statutory and common law. However, the freedom lacked a defined constitutional position, making it impossible to foresee when courts would recognise it as relevant in the settlement of specific situations. As a result, publishers could not depend on the right to free expression with certainty.
Militant Democracy, Terrorism, Extremism, Anti-Terrorism laws.