2nd Global Conference
Freedom of Speech
An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference

The second meeting of this project has been postponed to 2020

Freedom of speech – the right to speak out, to debate, to criticise, 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 protect the free-speech rights of individuals and journalists, reflecting the crucial role that the free dissemination of information, news and debate plays in democratic systems of government. Yet the right to speak out, to inform, to report and to openly debate is not absolute. Nor is it enjoyed by everyone, everywhere. This fundamental human right is under attack in many societies, and on many fronts.

Some governments pay lip service to guarantees of free expression; others actively censor or repress citizens, political opponents and the media; still others use punitive laws to control, punish and silence critics. The role of the news media as a check on official corruption and wrongdoing is under attack, as governments use threats, intimidation and even violence against journalists who expose and criticise. Misleading information and hate-driven commentary spread via social media platforms are manipulating public opinion, warping political debate and polluting the public sphere. Meanwhile, social stigma and excessive political correctness create intolerance, stifling debate and demonising some speakers. And although defamation laws and human rights codes regulate and penalise those who would use speech to harm and denigrate others, ethnic and racial groups continue to 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 making headlines, making us wonder about the responsibilities that come with public speech and about where the line should be drawn an individual’s right to express themselves freely and society’s right not to be wilfully misinformed.

This inclusive interdisciplinary conference aims to explore all aspects of free speech at the beginning of the 21st century with a view to forming a selective and innovative publication to engender further research and collaboration.

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.

Key Topics

Key topics, themes and issues for discussion may include, but are definitely 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
  • Where and how is the news media under attack, and what are the implications of these attacks for the media’s freedom – and ethical duty – to report the news, and for the watchdog role of journalists? How do these attacks threaten political diversity, stifle political debate, and undermine democratic systems of governance?
  • Power, discrimination and freedom of speech – who are the voiceless?
  • State censorship in an age of instant communication and social media – how effective is it, and how is it changing?
  • Private-sector practices meant to silence competitors or critics
  • Free speech vs. true speech – post truth, fake news, alternative facts and journalistic integrity
  • Free speech, the internet and social media
  • Social and inter-personal forms of censorship (political correctness, self-censorship, cyberbullying, social media shaming) and their impact on public discourse.
  • The corrosive effect of allegations of “fake news” on political debate and on public trust in the media, politicians and governments.
  • What role do Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms play in empowering users and in promoting free speech? How do trolls, anonymous postings, advertising and the creation of virtual communities harm or threaten free speech and the free exchange of information and ideas?
  • Free speech, intolerance and education: Who enjoys the right to speak freely in educational settings? Should certain books, speakers and alternative points of view be restricted or banned, and who decides who is heard? How do calls for tolerance, sensitivity and “safe spaces” affect learning and academic debate on campuses?
  • 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.). How are they evolving? What are the challenges and implications for freedom of speech?
  • Best practices in ensuring and protecting freedom of speech
  • Free speech, personal and collective responsibility (when words lead to harm, who pays the price?)

What to Send

The aim of this inclusive interdisciplinary conference and collaborative networking event is to bring people together and encourage creative conversations in the context of a variety of formats: papers, seminars, workshops, storytelling, performances, poster presentations, panels, q&a’s, round-tables etc. Please feel free to put forward proposals that you think will get the message across, in whatever form.

300 word proposals for participation should be submitted by Friday 12th April 2019. Other forms of participation should be discussed in advance with the Organising Chair.

All submissions will be minimally double reviewed, under anonymous (blind) conditions, by a global panel drawn from members of the Project Development 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 26th April 2019.

If your submission is accepted for the conference, a full draft of your contribution should be submitted by Friday 23rd August 2019.

Abstracts and 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: Free Speech Submission.

Where to Send

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

Professor Dean Jobb:
Project Administrator:

Details and Information


Registration Fees

The cost for attending the conference is £295. This includes:

~ conference registration fee
~ a discounted rate for any of the outputs emerging from the event
~ Saturday coffee/tea on arrival
~ Saturday morning coffee and biscuits
~ Saturday lunch
~ Saturday afternoon tea and biscuits
~ Saturday evening wine and drinks reception
~ drinks in the conference room
~ Sunday morning coffee and biscuits
~ Sunday lunch
~ Sunday afternoon tea and biscuits
~ drinks in the conference room

Calendar of time-lines and deadlines

Friday 12th April 2019
Abstract/Presentation submission

Friday 26th April 2019
Acceptance/Rejection notification

Friday 17th May 2019
Booking Form Submissions

w/e Friday 31st May 2019
Circulation of Draft Programme
Invoices issued

Monday 1st July 2019
Final date for payment

Friday 19th July 2019
Circulation of Revised Programme

Friday 23rd August 2019
Full draft of presentation to be submitted

Monday 23rd September 2019
Final programme to printing

The conference is being held at the Hotel Mercure Wien Westbanhoff

Felberstraße 4, 1150 Wien, Austria
Tel : (+43)1/981110 - Fax : (+43)1/98111930

We have reserved rooms for delegates at the conference hotel on favourable terms and conditions. On having a proposal accepted for presentation at the conference, and on the completion and submission of a booking form, a special booking form will be sent to you along with instructions on how to use it in order to access these terms..

Standard Room - Singe Occupancy
€105 per night including breakfast and all taxes

Standard Room - Double/Twin Person Occupancy
€114 per night including breakfast and all taxes

Details will be sent to delegates on how to access these rates once receipt of the booking form has been confirmed.

Accommodation bookings are made directly with the hotel, not Progressive Connexions. All payments for accommodation are made directly to the hotel as well. A credit card will be required on booking.

You are free to find alternative accommodation. We are offering these arrangements as a convenience to folks who would like to be at the conference venue.

The conferences, meetings and events we organise are not single ‘one-off’ events. They are part of a continual stream of conversations, activities and projects which grow and evolve in different directions. At the conclusion of every meeting, the question needs to be considered: What happens next? After all, there is little personal, educational or professional benefit in gathering people together from around the world and sharing all sorts of fascinating conversations if nothing further is going to happen as a result!

The possible ranges of ‘outputs’ which can productively flow from our meetings is a dynamic response to the dialogues, issues and engagements that take place during the events themselves. And as our meetings are attended by folks who come from different backgrounds, contexts, professions and vocations, what people would like to see developed as a result of our time spent together will always be potentially diverse, fluid and appropriate to what took place.

One range of possible outputs involves publication as a way of continuing the work of a project. Where publishing is a possibility, it is directly referenced in the Call for Papers, Presentations and Participation. Other possible outputs may include, but are not limited to:
~ social media platforms such as Facebook pages and groups, blogs, wikis, Twitter, as vehicles for continuing dialogues, disseminating knowledge and information and bringing new people into the work of the project
~ reviews; reports; policy statements; position papers/statements; declarations of principles
~ proposals for meetings, workshops, courses, schools
~ collaboration gateways, platforms and media
~ personal and professional development opportunities: faculty development; mentoring programmes; cultural cruises; consultancies; summer schools; personal enrichment programmes

The range of outputs is dependent on how little or how much you would like to become involved. Don’t let the end of the meeting signal the end of your involvement with the project. Please get involved, bounce ideas around, think out loud – we’d love to hear about what you’d like to do and are always happy to talk about what is possible.

Payment Process
Participants must complete the online booking form by Friday 13th July 2018 at the latest.
After the deadline has expired, an invoice will be drawn up and sent to you; the invoice will contain all the necessary information for you to pay by bank transfer, cheque, Paypal or credit card.
The invoice must be settled by Friday 1st July 2019.

It is the responsibility of delegates to ensure that payment is made by this date. Failure to receive payment will result in your booking being cancelled.

Payment Methods
There are a number of ways payment can be made.

Payment can be made by cheque, in GBP (£ sterling) only and must be drawn against a bank with headquarters in the United Kingdom. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Progressive Connexions’ and sent, with a copy of the booking form, to:

Dr Rob Fisher
Progressive Connexions
Priory House
149b Wroslyn Road
Oxfordshire. OX29 8HR
United Kingdom

We cannot and will not accept cheques made payable in currencies other than GBP Sterling.

Bank Transfer Payment may be made using bank transfer. There will be an option to pay in either GBP (£ Sterling) or Euro (€). Full details to enable a bank transfer are made available on your conference invoice. If paying by this method, you must agree to pay all charges at the sending and receiving banks.

By Invoice
You may request that an invoice be sent to you which you may forward to your institution. It is your responsibility to ensure that the invoice is paid before the payment deadline.

Your invoice will include a link to pay through a secure and encrypted online payment system. Please click the link to use this method.

Credit Card
Payment may also be made using credit card. We cannot accept American Express or Discovery as a form of payment.

Payment may also be made using Paypal. If paying by this method please send us the email account connected with your Paypal account and we will forward you a request for payment.

We strongly recommend that all delegates take out some form of travel or other insurance in relation to any and all travel arrangements or accommodation booked in regard to the conference. This should include cancellation insurance in the event of unforeseen or unexpected circumstances.

All fees are payable in advance. No delegate will be permitted entry to the conference if an invoice is still unpaid.

What’s so Special?

A fresh, friendly, dynamic format – at Progressive Connexions we 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 suited to the history and culture of the event.


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.

Progressive Connexions is a not-for-profit network inspiring inclusive interdisciplinary research, publishing and collaboration