The revolutionaries sincerely aspired to freedom of the press. Article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 captured the two sides of the issue: the right to free expression and the need for certain limits. ‘The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.’ The problems, the struggles and ultimately the tragedy all lay in the second half of the article: what was an abuse and how should it be punished? Only states that are willing to grant such rights face the dilemmas that are an inevitable correlation of them, and only states that are confident in their legitimacy survive to consider the dilemmas another day. The concern with limits never disappears. How could it when the size of the field for democratic dispute is never and has never been unbounded?

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