Brian Pellot has an article at Religion News about a new report released by Reporters Without Borders on the use of blasphemy laws around the world to silence and intimidate journalists. You can read that full report here. Pellot sums up the conclusions:
Blasphemy: Information Sacrificed on Altar of Religion highlights the many ways in which states and societies, often motivated by politics and power, use religious sensitivities to stifle dialogue, debate and dissent.
47 percent of countries have laws that penalize blasphemy, apostasy and/or defamation of religion. In many of these countries, bloggers and journalists are censored, arrested or murdered for merely reporting the facts of a developing story.
Religiously justified censorship and backlash are often ad hoc and unpredictable, prompting writers, cartoonists and commentators to self-censor before publishing potentially “blasphemous” or “defamatory” ideas. Considering the legal and social uncertainties around religious offense, many journalists play it safe and avoid reporting critically on news that touches on protected faith or belief systems.
Religion and religious extremism therefore become “straitjackets for journalists and bloggers,” blocking the free flow of information.
These straitjackets are tightest in the 15 majority-Muslim countries that operate under Shariah law, where politics and religion are intertwined and challenging the government often means challenging God. Though probably the worst offenders, these countries are by no means the only ones stifling free expression in the name of religion.
But as Pellot notes, 24 members of the EU also have blasphemy laws on the books. And while they’re rarely used, their existence allows those countries that do enforce them to justify their own authoritarianism on that basis.