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Free Speech Wars

From 27 February to 1 March, more than 150 top speakers debated all aspects of free speech before packed audiences at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Free Speech Wars, an international festival of talks, debates, screenings and events organised by LM and the ICA in association with Waterstone's, was a landmark event which started an important discussion on new erosions of free expression and how they can be resisted.

While censorship with a big C may be outdated, the debate focused on how more insidious forms of interference now curtail what we can say, watch and read. From the keynote theme of hate speech, the discussion covered a wide range of topics: the press after Diana and privacy legislation; music videos and lyrics; paedophilia and broadcasting; net porn and Carmageddon; heroin chic and smoking supermodels; horror films and the TV watershed; political satire and silencing football fans; abortion and book publishing.

Many different views were aired and LM's campaign for the right to be offensive and demand to 'ban nothing, question everything' found wide resonance. The debates were as intense between sessions in the bar and at the various wine receptions as in the formal debates, indicating a thirst for having the arguments out - a healthy response in Blair's Britain of bland consensus, and one which was aided by some excellent and thought-provoking entertainment.

Free Speech Wars demonstrated LM's commitment to widening the debate on free speech. If you missed it, or want to continue the discussions, visit the website www.FreeSpeechWars.org and watch this space.

Claire Fox and Helene Guldberg

Free Speech Wars Festival Director and Coordinator, Publishers, LM magazine

Above: Journalist Anne Applebaum discusses the media's response to Princess Diana's death. Adam Porter (Loaded), Tessa Mayes (LIRE), Helen Searls (LM) and Alan Clark MP argue against privacy laws. ICA bar. Panellists Dougie Brimson, Anne Coddington (football writers) and Ed Barrett (Esquire) debated silencing the football fan. Waterstone's festival launch. Comic Milton Jones stands up for free speech. Q entertains. James Heartfield (LM) on Why Hate Speech? panel. Tony Wilson (Factory Records) leads the discussion on Lyrical Correctness. Kevin Maguire (Mirror), Jake Lynch (Sky News), Nick Irvine (IPPR), Melanie Phillips (Observer) and LM's editor Mick Hume take on the spin doctors. Nadine Strossen, President of the American Civil Liberties Union gives the keynote lecture on Hate Speech

Reproduced from LM issue 109, April 1998

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