Rishi Sunak: ‘Free speech is vital for democracy’

The Prime Minister has denounced the “chilling effect of so called cancel culture” on society.

Speaking at the Society of Editors’ 25th Anniversary Conference, Rishi Sunak warned that “making people fearful” and “shutting down” their views cannot be allowed in a democracy.

It follows his recent comments on Scotland’s new hate crime law, in which he emphasised that people “should not be criminalised for stating simple facts on biology”.


Sunak told the Society of Editors: “Democracy depends on the ability to air our views, to challenge and interrogate people’s standpoints and to learn from different perspectives and experiences.

“And if we value a liberal, pluralistic society, we cannot allow one group of people to say their experiences are more important than others.

“And I stand by that declaration of George Orwell’s, carved into the wall outside the BBC – ‘If Liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’

“This is vital for the future of a free press. More than that, it is vital for the future of our democracy.”


Last year, the Government’s free speech tsar pledged to use his new role to “defend free speech within the law for all views and approaches”.

Prof Arif Ahmed is the first Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom at the Office for Students, a role that was promised by the Department for Education in 2021 and appointed in 2023.

In his inaugural speech, he emphasised that free speech and academic freedom are “fundamental” for universities’ pursuit of knowledge and societal progress.

The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act, which became law last year, puts a new duty on universities in England to “actively promote” free speech.

Also see:

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Holyrood supports abortion ‘censorship zones’ despite silent prayer concerns