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UN rights council limiting press freedom to protect religion: journalist groups

[JURIST] The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the World Editors Forum (WEF) [group websites] accused the UN Human Rights Council [official website] of "undermin[ing] the freedom of expression in the name of religious sensibilities" in a resolution [text; press release] the two groups adopted Tuesday. Passed at the 2008 World Newspaper Congress [conference website] in Goteberg, Sweden, the statement concerns an amendment to a March 2008 UN Human Rights Council resolution [JURIST report] that required the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression [official website] to report "abuses" of free expression being used to promote religious discrimination. That amendment was proposed by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference [group website]. The media groups alleged that the amendment was a veiled attempt to discourage press criticism on religious issues.

Russian opposition figure Garry Kasparov spoke on press freedom in Russia [WAN recorded video; TOR report] at the Congress Tuesday, saying that Russian press laws under former President Vladimir Putin had sought to suppress freedom of expression by portraying it as a threat to national security. On Monday, current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev encouraged the Russian parliament to reject a bill that would allow officials to close media outlets suspected of spreading libel or slander, a move some see as a continuation of his inaugural promise to respect Russian laws and rights [JURIST reports]. AP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage on press freedom in Russia.

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