Shabaz Taseer, the son of a Pakistani governor killed for criticizing blasphemy laws was abducted by gunmen on Friday, August 26. His father Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab and member in the Pakistan People’s Party, was murdered by his bodyguard in January 2011 after speaking against blasphemy laws. Shabaz was reportedly kidnapped and forced into a car. His whereabouts are unknown and there is no clear motive, although his family suspects extremists are behind the kidnapping after receiving threats. Shabaz is the owner of a number of companies including Media Times Ltd, and his sister is a journalist who has spoken publicly against extremism. Extremists have kidnapped scores of people and often used them as bargaining tools to secure the release of imprisoned militants. Earlier this month a U.S. aid worker was abducted and remains missing.
Journalist Rahmatullah Darpakhel was kidnapped on August 9 by a group of armed men while shopping at a market in Miranshah. Although Darpakhel, a journalist for AAJ TV and the Urdu daily newspaper Ausafcovered political issues, he was reportedly sensitive to the regional turmoil, refusing to work with foreign media for fear of potential danger. The motivation for the kidnapping is unclear and his whereabouts are unknown.
Saleem Shahzad, a journalist found dead in Islamabad, Pakistan on May 31, is likely the victim of a deliberate attempt by ISI, Pakistani intelligence services, to silence him, according to U.S. intelligence sources, despite public denial by Pakistani officials. It is believed that Shahzad’s piece for Asia Times on al-Qaeda’s retaliation after arrested naval officers were accused of ties to the group, written three days before his disappearance, was a factor in the killing.
On June 18, reporter Waqar Kiani was beaten in Islamabad, Pakistan after publishing a piece in The Guardian about the abduction and torture of intelligence agents. Men dressed in police garb ordered Kiani out of his car and then beat him.
A majority of Americans see democracy in the U.S. as weak and getting weaker, according to a national survey released by The Democracy Project, a joint initiative of Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
Policing Belief: The Impact of Blasphemy Laws on Human Rightsexamines 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.
On May 21, 2008, the UN General Assembly will elect 15 new Human Rights Council members. Twenty countries are candidates. Freedom House and UN Watch evaluated each candidate’s suitability for election to the Human Rights Council by examining its record of human rights protection at home and its record of human rights promotion at the UN.
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