The extension of Blasphemy Laws that criminalize expression deemed blasphemous or defamatory of religion has become an increasingly important concern.
In Asia, particularly, the issue of "blasphemy" in online spaces has taken a dangerous turn. The Blasphemy Law in Pakistan carries a death sentence. To date, no one has been hanged for conducting blasphemy, yet many have been killed by angry mobs and vigilantes with complete impunity. The internet has brought new dimensions to the debate. In Pakistan, a professor was charged for an allegedly blasphemous Facebook status, and his lawyer was also killed.
Similarly, in Bangladesh, bloggers have been killed on blasphemy charges by mobs, and In Malaysia, ‘insulting Islam’ has been used to carry out crackdowns against criticism of state institutions that manage religious affairs.
The Rabat Action Plan (2013) calls for the repeal of blasphemy laws due to their stifling impact on freedom of expression, encouraging positive policy measures, including those for political leaders and media, to promote pluralism for countering intolerance. Not only the Rabat Plan gone unimplemented, we are also witnessing an escalation in crackdown on expression on the basis of blasphemy.
This workshop seeks to build on the Asia Regional Conference on Freedom of Expression, Opinion and Religious Freedoms (June 2015) to generate discussion on the impact of blasphemy laws on the governance and practice of freedom of expression online. The workshop will bring together experts from around the world to see how this issue manifests in different regions and what Internet Governance frameworks can be employed to tackle the issue.