Youth debate on free expression

This weekend, I went to Sutton on my second outing to London regional meeting of UK Youth Parliament –– the first being to Tower Hamlets in December. These are monthly get togethers, for the Youth Parliament members (MYPs) to update each other on news and develop their campaigns (currently — Healthy London, Give Youth A Home and Transport Costs).

It was as before, really inspiring to be discussing freedom of expression with the MYPs –– these are the newly elected group – who came up with really thoughtful and considered arguments. It seemed like the full gamut of opinion was represented in the room of 40 or so 11-18 year olds –– and proved to already be a contentious subject.

We used a range of statements around freedom of expression to trigger debate and discussion in small groups, from the classic “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear” (George Orwell) to the contemporary “In a plural society it is both inevitable and important that people offend others” (Kenan Malik). When asked “what comes to mind when you think of censorship” one person gave a succinct and insightful answer ‘Secrecy…’

Julia Farrington is Head of Arts and Events at Index on Censorship