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However, seemingly hamstrung by its limited competencies in this area and preoccupied by the economic crisis, Brussels has been hesitant in its reaction to apparent democratic backsliding. Sooner or later the European Union will be forced to take a firmer stance on the protection of democratic institutions within its member states. Click here to read Sylvana Habdank-Kolaczkowska and Zselyke Csaky's op-ed for the EU Observer.

Issues: 
Civil Society, Democratic Governance, Human Rights Defense, Intergovernmental Bodies
Regions: 
Eurasia, Europe
written by
Sylvana Habdank-Kołaczkowska
Project Director of "Nations in Transit"
written by
Zselyke Csaky
Research Analyst, Nations in Transit

When a far-right political party with a nationalist, anti-immigration, and Euroskeptic agenda joined a coalition government after Austria’s 1999 parliamentary elections, the 14 other countries of the European Union (EU) balked. The inclusion of Jörg Haider’s Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) challenged an implicit agreement among EU members that extremist parties would be barred from central government positions.

Regions: 

The Greek government’s sudden decision to shut down the state broadcaster, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT), is the most serious in a series of worrying developments for media freedom in the country. The move deals another devastating blow to the ability of the media to provide citizens with information from a variety of viewpoints in a country that is already suffering due to an unprecedented economic crisis.

Issues: 
Freedom of Expression, Media Freedom
Regions: 
Europe
written by
Jennifer Dunham
Senior Research Analyst, Freedom in the World and Freedom of the Press
written by
Zselyke Csaky
Research Analyst, Nations in Transit

In the half decade since the beginning of the economic crisis, global press freedom has declined, and the EU has been no exception to this trend. Reporting on a new survey on press freedom, Jennifer Dunham and Zselyke Csaky find that Greece and Hungary have experienced large declines in press freedom in recent years, with Lithuania, Latvia and Spain also seeing falls. They write that the economic crisis has exacerbated deep-rooted problems across Europe’s media environments leading to a decline in print media circulation and diversity, as well as a greater concentration of media ownership.

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Policing Belief: The Impact of Blasphemy Laws on Human Rights

Policing Belief: The Impact of Blasphemy Laws on Human Rights examines the human rights implications of domestic blasphemy and religious insult laws using the case studies of seven countries—Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Poland—where such laws exist both on paper and in practice. Without exception, blasphemy laws violate the fundamentalfreedom of expression, as they are by definition intended to protect religious institutions and religious doctrine– i.e., abstract ideas and concepts – from insult or offence. At their most benign, such laws lead to self-censorship.  In Greece and Poland, two of the more democratic countries examined in the study, charges brought against high-profile artists, curators and writers serve as a warning to others that certain topics are off limits. At their worst, in countries such as Pakistan and Malaysia, such laws lead to overt governmental censorship and individuals are both prosecuted and subject to severe criminal penalties including lengthy jail sentences.

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