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.

Download the full report
(English)

الإيمان بحفظ الأمن والنظام
(Arabic)

عقیدے کی نگرانی
(Urdu)

Download individual country sections:

The report has generated a great deal of discussion in global media ahead of the United Nations vote on the resolution “On Combating Defamation of Religions,” put forward by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
 
The Wrong Way to Combat ‘Islamaphobia,’ ” an op-ed by Freedom House Director of Advocacy Paula Schriefer, International Herald Tribune, Nov. 9, 2010.
 
When Blasphemy is a Crime,” an editorial from the Los Angeles Times, Oct. 27, 2010.
 
Video: Watch Freedom House Director of Advocacy Paula Schriefer introduce the report at the Oct. 21 launch event, held at the Church Center.
 
Videos: Watch Policing Belief writer Jo-Anne Prud’homme explain how blasphemy laws are used against religious minorities, and how people use blasphemy laws to settle petty disputes with neighbors and rivals.

Audio: Paula Schriefer on CBC Radio One’s cultural affairs show Q talks about Policing Belief and blasphemy laws with Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi.
 
Audio: The report’s editor Courtney C. Radsch discusses the report’s findings with UNI
 
Policing Belief is an initiative of the Global Freedom of Expression Campaign.

To learn more or to arrange an interview please contact Mary McGuire at press@freedomhouse.org.