Article 10 Freedom of expression

Article 10: Your right to freedom of expression

Our freedom of expression – protected by Article 10 of the Human Rights Act – is fundamental to our democracy.

It means we’re free to hold opinions and ideas and share them with others without the State interfering – which is crucial to keeping our Government accountable and transparent.

Liberty and other human rights groups have used it to challenge the UK Government’s mass surveillance – which scoops up all our correspondence, threatening our ability to stand up to those in power. 

Article 10 protects your right to communicate and express yourself in any medium, including in words, pictures and actions. It’s often used to defend press freedom and protect journalists’ sources.

It covers:

  • political expression – including peaceful protests and demonstrations
  • artistic expression
  • commercial expression – particularly when it also raises matters of legitimate public debate and concern.

The right to free expression would be meaningless if it only protected certain types of expression. So Article 10 protects both popular and unpopular expression – including speech that might shock others – subject to certain limitations.


Article 10 may be limited in certain circumstances. Any limitation must:

  • be covered by law
  • benecessary and proportionate
  • for one or more of the following aims:
    • national security, territorial integrity or public safety
    • preventing disorder or crime
    • protecting health or morals
    • protecting other people's reputation or rights
    • preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence
    • maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

When considering whether free expression should be limited, courts will question whether doing so could have a ‘chilling effect’ on expression, the value of the particular form of expression and the medium used.

Limiting free expression usually involves restrictions on publication, penalties for publication, requiring journalists to reveal their sources, imposing disciplinary measures or confiscating material.

David Miranda's story

David Miranda was detained for nine hours by police at Heathrow Airport in August 2013.

He was questioned under Schedule 7 – a breathtakingly broad power that lets police, immigration or customs officers detain and question someone with no need for suspicion.

David was only freed when officers reached the legal time limit for either arresting or releasing him. 

His electronic equipment – which included a hard drive carrying encrypted journalistic material derived from Edward Snowden – was confiscated, and he was questioned for long periods without a lawyer present.

David was helping the work of his partner, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who had recently written several stories about the Snowden surveillance revelations for The Guardian.

Liberty intervened in David Miranda’s legal challenge – and in 2016 the Court of Appeal ruled that Schedule 7 was incompatible with Article 10 rights because it didn’t contain adequate protections for journalists.