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How Blasphemy Laws Silence Journalists

Brian Pellot has an article at Religion News about a new report released by Reporters Without Borders on the use of blasphemy laws around the world to silence and intimidate journalists. You can read that full report here. Pellot sums up the conclusions:

Blasphemy: Information Sacrificed on Altar of Religion highlights the many ways in which states and societies, often motivated by politics and power, use religious sensitivities to stifle dialogue, debate and dissent.

47 percent of countries have laws that penalize blasphemy, apostasy and/or defamation of religion. In many of these countries, bloggers and journalists are censored, arrested or murdered for merely reporting the facts of a developing story.

Religiously justified censorship and backlash are often ad hoc and unpredictable, prompting writers, cartoonists and commentators to self-censor before publishing potentially “blasphemous” or “defamatory” ideas. Considering the legal and social uncertainties around religious offense, many journalists play it safe and avoid reporting critically on news that touches on protected faith or belief systems.

Religion and religious extremism therefore become “straitjackets for journalists and bloggers,” blocking the free flow of information.

These straitjackets are tightest in the 15 majority-Muslim countries that operate under Shariah law, where politics and religion are intertwined and challenging the government often means challenging God. Though probably the worst offenders, these countries are by no means the only ones stifling free expression in the name of religion.

But as Pellot notes, 24 members of the EU also have blasphemy laws on the books. And while they’re rarely used, their existence allows those countries that do enforce them to justify their own authoritarianism on that basis.

Comments

  1. says

    Well, to be fair, blasphemy is pretty bad. While “sticks and stones might break my bones but words will never hurt me”, words about my religious beliefs hurt me bad. Real bad. They tear me all up inside. Sometimes, I cry myself to sleep at night. Frankly, if these laws make those heretic [religion/sect/denomination that isn't mine] shut up about how false my God is and, further, how real their heretical, fake God who is a lie and also smells like poopy is…oh, shit. Is it blasphemy when I do it?

  2. says

    MARCUS RANMU SNOWDENS HATING AMERICA AND FREEDOM AND AMERICA IS BLASPHEMY! YOU CANT HAVE FREEDOM WITHOUT SECURITY!!! FOR THAT YOU NEED THE NSA TO RECORD EVERYTHING! ALSO BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA IS EVIL AND HE RUNS THE NSA AND EVERYTHING HES INVOLVED WITH NO MATTER HOW TANGENTIALLY IS BAD SO THE NSA IS BAD! BUT ITS GOOD! BUT BAD! BUT GOOD! MY MOTHER! MY SISTER! MY MOTHER! MY SISTER!

  3. justsomeguy says

    One thing I never understood about blasphemy laws is how they operate in religiously pluralistic societies. Practicing one religion will almost invariably mean you’re committing blasphemy according to another.

  4. says

    Religion and religious extremism therefore become “straitjackets for journalists and bloggers,” blocking the free flow of information.

    So, in other words, the blasphemy laws are working as intended.

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