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GLOBAL FREE SPEECH RAPPORTEURS CONDEMN "DEFAMATION OF RELIGION" AND ANTI-EXTREMISM LAWS

Four international bodies that have special mandates on free expression have issued a declaration calling for international organisations to reject the notion of defamation of religion and vague definitions of anti-terrorism, reports ARTICLE 19, the body that brought them together.

The four free expression special rapporteurs in the UN, Europe, the Americas and Africa declared that international organisations, such as the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council, should refrain from adopting statements that criminalise "defamation of religion" and blasphemy laws. They said the concepts do "not accord with international standards."

They also expressed concern about the proliferation of anti-terrorism laws since the 11 September 2001 attacks, and advised that the definition of terrorism should be restricted to "violent crimes? (that) inflict terror on the public." Their definition rejects the vague ideas of "providing communications support" or "promoting" extremism or terrorism.

The declaration also called for respect for the media's role in informing the public about terrorism and acting as watchdog of government, as well as their right to protect their confidential sources of information.

"The four global mandates' annual joint declarations for promoting freedom of expression are an excellent example of international cooperation in the field of human rights advocacy," said Miklos Haraszti, the special rapporteur from the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). "Just like the OSCE media freedom commitments, these documents are directed at updating international mechanisms on freedom of opinion, expression and the media."

ARTICLE 19 first brought the special mandates on freedom of expression together in 1999 and they have issued a joint declaration every year since then. "The declarations provide important guidance to those wishing to understand international human rights standards," says ARTICLE 19.

Read more on the declaration from ARTICLE 19 at: http://tinyurl.com/66dw33

Read the full text of the declaration at: http://www.osce.org/documents/rfm/2008/12/35705_en.pdf

(17 December 2008)

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