Freedom of speech – the right to speak out, to debate, to criticize, to disseminate information on matters of public importance – is one of the most basic of human rights. Article 19 of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights holds that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.” The constitutions and laws of countless countries strive to protect the free-speech rights of individuals and journalists. Yet the right to speak out is not absolute, and it is not enjoyed by everyone.

Defamation laws and human rights codes regulate and penalize those who would use speech to harm and denigrate others. Many governments pay lip service to guarantees of free expression; others actively censor citizens and the media; still others use punitive laws to attack and silence critics. Social stigma and excessive political correctness stifle debate and demonize some speakers, and ethnic and racial groups are the targets of hostility and hate speech.

In western countries where speech is largely considered to be free, notions such as “post truth”, “alternative facts” or “fake news” are recently making headlines, making us wonder about the responsibilities that come with public speech and about where the line should be drawn between an individual’s right to express themselves freely and society’s right not to be purposefully misinformed.

This inclusive interdisciplinary conference aims to explore all aspects of free speech at the beginning of the 21st century. What can we say about governments, corporations, ethnic groups, and each other? What are we forbidden from saying, and what is the impact of these restrictions? How does censorship in all its forms – official, interpersonal and self-censorship – affect public discourse? What are the legal and political limits on freedom of speech, and how do these limitations vary between countries and between systems of government? How are the Internet, social media, and other communications technologies expanding free speech, and in what ways are these new modes of communication eroding this fundamental freedom? How are statements that promote hatred or defame others disseminated in today’s world, and how are these corrosive forms of speech prohibited or controlled?

Our main goal is to facilitate dialogue and spark innovative collaborations and discussions at an international level, in a dynamic and interactive setting. Thus, we welcome participants from all relevant disciplines, professions and vocations, such as journalists, publishers, lawyers, media and communication experts and researchers, sociologists, media and journalism studies specialists and other social scientists, members of NGOs and think tanks, policy makers, professors and educators in relevant fields, professional bloggers and more. Presentations, informal talks, workshops, directed discussions, performances, screenings and other types of interactive and multimedia engagement might address themes such as (but not limited to):

  • How free is speech in today’s world – restrictions on free speech across countries, regions and between regimes and forms of government
  • Power, discrimination and freedom of speech – who are the voiceless?
  • State censorship in an age of instant communication – how did it change? does it still work?
  • Private sector practices meant to silence competitors or critics
  • Free speech vs. true speech – post truth, fake news, alternative facts and journalistic integrity
  • The role played by civil society (NGOs, individuals) in challenging official acts of censorship
  • Legal aspects surrounding the protection or limitation of free speech (defamation laws, human rights acts, protections against invasion of personal privacy etc.)
  • Best practices in ensuring and protecting freedom of speech
  • Free speech, the internet and social media
  • Free speech, personal and collective responsibility (when words lead to harm, who pays the price?)
  • Social and inter-personal forms of censorship (political correctness, self-censorship, cyberbullying, social media shaming) and their impact on public discourse.

What’s so special about Progressive Connexions events?
A fresh, friendly, dynamic format – we at Progressive Connexions are dedicated to breaking away from the stuffy, old-fashion conference formats, where endless presentations are read aloud off PowerPoints. We work to bring you an interactive format, where exchange of experience and information is alternated with captivating workshops, engaging debates and round tables, time set aside for getting to know each other and for discussing common future projects and initiatives, all in a warm, relaxed, egalitarian atmosphere.

A chance to network with international professionals – the beauty of our interdisciplinary events is that they bring together professionals from all over the world and from various fields of activity, all joined together by a shared passion. Not only will the exchange of experience, knowledge and stories be extremely valuable in itself, but we seek to create lasting, ever-growing communities around our projects, which will become a valuable resource for those belonging to them.

A chance to be part of constructing change – There is only one thing we love as much as promoting knowledge: promoting real, lasting social change by encouraging our participants to take collective action, under whichever form is most suited to their needs and expertise (policy proposals, measuring instruments, research projects, educational materials, etc.) We will support all such actions in the aftermath of the event as well, providing a platform for further discussions, advice from the experts on our Project Advisory Team and various other tools and intellectual resources, as needed.

An opportunity to discuss things that matter to you – Our events are not only about discussing how things work in the respective field, but also about how people work in that field – what are the struggles, problems and solutions professionals have found in their line of work, what are the areas where better communication among specialists is needed and how the interdisciplinary approach can help bridge those gaps and help provide answers to questions from specific areas of activity.

An unforgettable experience – When participating in a Progressive Connexions event, there is a good chance you will make some long-time friends. Our group sizes are intimate, our venues are comfortable and relaxing and our event locations are history-laden and suited to the event. And to further tickle your appetite for exploration, learning and discovery, our Lisbon 2018 event package includes personalized tours of some of the most relevant historical and cultural sites in the city.

What to Send
The aim of this interdisciplinary conference and collaborative networking event is to bring together academics, professionals, practitioners, NGOs, voluntary sector workers and many more in the context of a variety of formats: papers, seminars, workshops, panels, q&a’s, performances etc.

300 word reviews of your proposed contribution (paper abstracts, proposals for workshops, collaborative works or round tables, overviews of artistic projects or any other relevant forms of participation you are interested in) should be submitted by Friday 20th October 2017

All submissions will be minimally double reviewed, under anonymous (blind) conditions, by a global panel drawn from members of the Project Advisory Team and the Advisory Board. In practice our procedures usually entail that by the time a proposal is accepted, it will have been triple and quadruple reviewed.

You will be notified of the panel’s decision by Friday 3rd November 2017.

If your submission is accepted for the conference, a full draft of your contribution should be submitted by Friday 16th February 2018.

Proposals may be in Word, PDF, RTF or Notepad formats with the following information and in this order:
a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in the programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.

E-mails should be entitled:  Freedom of Speech Submission

Where to Send
Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to the Organising Chair and the Project Administrator:

Dean Jobb: dean.jobb@ukings.ca
Project Administrator: lisbonspeech@progressiveconnexions.net

Date of Conference

Saturday 17th March 2018 – Sunday 18th March 2018

Location
Lisbon, Portugal

Ethos
Progressive Connexions believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract or proposal for presentation.

Please note: Progressive Connexions is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence, nor can we offer discounts off published rates and fees.

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