Archive for the 'ICCPR' Category

Sticking up for God? The Case for freedom of expression encompassing religious criticism

Religious defamation as a legal concept was first proposed in 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council on the submission of Pakistan. It broadened the individualistic nature of human rights protection to cover very large groups. The adopted text of the 2009 Resolution stated that:

“Defamation of religious is a serious affront to human dignity leading to a restriction on the freedom of their adherents and incitement to religious violence,”

This move was widely criticised at the time as serving the interests of Islamic and African Nations, which comprised the majority of the 23 votes in favour (10 against, 13 abstentions). The resolution itself was very unclear on what religious defamation actually means, ranging from phrases such as: “Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism” Which seem to deal with generally offensive statements, to the more familiar territory of incitement to racial and religious violence. Whilst the latter is well known and dealt with under a variety of municipal legal systems through criminal law, the former suggests an extension of forbidden speech into the territory of ‘defamation proper’, that is to say, of private law. Continue reading ‘Sticking up for God? The Case for freedom of expression encompassing religious criticism’

A reawakening of free speech in Egypt?

In the wake of the January 2011 Egyptian revolution, harmonies of free speech and reform echoed through the crowds of Tahrir Square and were heard around the world.

One Egyptian lyricist, Hany Adel, voiced the revolutionary weapons of dreams and words in his song, Sout Al Horeya ‘the sound of freedom,’ which quickly gained popularity across the internet and social media networks. Continue reading ‘A reawakening of free speech in Egypt?’

Azerbaijan and the case of Eynulla Fatullayev

Protesters gathered in front of the Azerbaijani Embassy on 20 April to commemorate the anniversary of the imprisonment of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev in 2007, and to support the Azerbaijani citizens who were harassed and brought under custody during the opposition rally that took place on 9 and 17 April 2011, in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Human Rights Organisations report a rapid deterioration of media freedom in the country and the case of Eynulla Fatullayev ‘symbolises’ Ajerbaijan’s failure to secure freedom of expression as guaranteed in international and European law.  Continue reading ‘Azerbaijan and the case of Eynulla Fatullayev’

The ‘Value’ of Hate Speech

Is ‘hate speech’ always so valueless as to warrant its prohibition by international law?  Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights not only condemns hate speech constituting incitement of discrimination, hostility or violence, but requires laws to prohibit it.  Identifying the point where free speech becomes hate speech, and therefore justifies a limitation on freedom of expression, has historically been riddled with problems:  set the standard too low and the potential objects of hate speech are left unprotected; set it too high and it risks becoming a tool of persecution for governments against their opponents.  At the recent Timely National Conference on Freedom of Expression in Kenya, the legitimacy of measures criminalising hate speech were considered, but there was no questioning of the definition of hate speech as “valueless” and therefore outside the scope of protection of international law. Continue reading ‘The ‘Value’ of Hate Speech’


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