Freedom House today held a panel discussion entitled “Free to Express, Free to Believe: The Defamation of Religions Debate” at the 13th Session of the Human Rights Council featuring human rights defenders from Indonesia, Nigeria and the United States who discussed options for combating religious discrimination without restricting free speech. Delegates from the United States, Chile, the UK, Italy, Denmark, Pakistan, Mexico and Brazil attended the session, together with about 75 UN and civil society representatives.
Frontline human rights defenders from around the globe met today in the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing of the White House with President Obama and senior administration officials to discuss ways that the United States can counter the deterioration of human rights around the world. The activists are in Washington, D.C. for a summit hosted by Freedom House and Human Rights First.
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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