The article is an amended version of the Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture presented at Warsaw University in 2014. It discusses the contemporary meaning of the right to free expression, concentrating on the basic principles of free speech as well as the limits of the right. In this context, the article pays special attention to British, Polish and European practice (particularly with respect to cases that are relevant for Poland). The specific topics tackled by the author include: free speech and the problem of criminalization of certain acts (e.g. the offence of defamation of public officials), hate speech, freedom of expression and the right of an individual to protect his or her good reputation (including the issue of libel laws), freedom of expression and the right to privacy (including the right to prior restraint on publication), free speech and internet, and the right to privacy versus national security.