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Humanists UK defends freedom of expression online at United Nations Human Rights Council

Humanist UK representative Dr David Harvey (left) at the UNHRC in Geneva

Humanists UK has criticised the global crackdown on online freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief at the 38th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. In a statement delivered by Humanists UK representative Dr. David Harvey today, Humanists UK challenged member states whose harsh laws governing freedom of expression act as anti-blasphemy laws, criminalising the sharing of secularist and humanist opinions online.

Humanists UK is a member of the End Blasphemy Laws campaign and has been active in seeking to challenge and abolish blasphemy laws around the globe for many years. It campaigns for both religious and non-religious people to have the freedom to express their beliefs, both online and offline, and to not be penalised by the state or demonised by society for doing so.

In the statement, Dr. Harvey drew attention to the situation in Bangladesh where the Information and Communication Technology Act has been used for over a decade to arbitrarily detain those who are considered to have caused ‘hurt to religious belief’ with their online publications. Far from Bangladesh improving this state of affairs, the statement warned that the introduction of a new Digital Security Act put forward by the Government may well worsen the situation.

The intervention also focused on Pakistan, whose founding of the Telecommunication Authority last year, to clamp down on all online and social media posts that are judged to have offended Islam, is a major threat to freedom of expression and belief. In addition, it highlighted the tragic case of Shahzahan Bachchu earlier this month, the latest in a string of Bangladeshi humanist and secularist writers murdered for expressing their beliefs.

The statement concluded by urging ‘all states to abolish their anti-blasphemy laws immediately, including those that seek to limit freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief online’.

Notes

For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 0207 324 3078.

Read Humanists UK’s full statement: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018-06-14-JH-ID-on-freedom-of-expression.pdf

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on anti-blasphemy laws and freedom of expression: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/international-campaigns/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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