UN rights expert criticizes widespread censorship laws

UN rights expert criticizes widespread censorship laws

[JURIST] The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye [official profile] said Thursday that governments are “wielding the tools of censorship” and cautioned [press release] that “the freedom of expression is under the widespread assault.” He discussed how countries throughout the world are passing laws that not only abridge free speech but punish journalists for reporting, are vague allowing subjectivity to substitute for actual wrongdoing, punish people for social media posts, and essentially treat speech as a weapon under the narrative of counter-terrorism or other national security narratives. Kaye ended his remarks saying that “[g]overnments must not only reverse course, but also take the lead in ensuring its protection.”

Bills limiting freedom of expression and punishing religious dissension have been widespread across the world and have led to international concern. In August Maldives President Yameen Abdul Gayoom signed [JURIST report] into law a controversial bill criminalizing defamation with fines and jail terms despite widespread criticism. Earlier this year a sharia high court in Nigeria sentenced cleric Abdulaziz Dauda and nine others to death [JURIST report] by hanging for committing blasphemy against the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. In January UN human rights experts called for a review of the UK’s draft “Investigatory Powers” bill fearing that the present draft of the bill could threaten freedom of expression and association [JURIST report]. In February a Pakistani man was executed for his part in murdering a politician [JURIST report] who supported a Christian who had been convicted of blasphemy. Later that month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the Indonesian Parliament to reject proposed amendments to its law on the “eradication of terrorism” [Law No. 15/2003]. HRW asserts that the proposed amendments are too vague [JURIST report] and would limit the exercise of free expression and directly conflict with Indonesia’s obligations to international human rights, leading to fundamental rights violations. And in 2010 HRW urged the repeal of all such laws [JURIST report].