UN rights panel extends free speech investigator mandate to discrimination

[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] passed a resolution [press release] by a 32-0 vote Tuesday "extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression for three years," and adding extra oversight to require reporting when "abuse of the right of freedom of expression constitute[s] an act of racial or religious discrimination," in addition to reporting of government repression of free speech. The measure was strongly backed by Islamic countries, but 15 UNHRC member countries abstained from the vote to adopt the resolution.

The "racial or religious discrimination" language was proposed by Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. According to the UN's summary of the proceedings, Pakistan noted that "although the sponsors supported freedom of opinion and expression, it was nevertheless their belief that rights carried within them an inherent responsibility and should not be used for negative objectives." The UNHRC also adopted a resolution [press release; AP report] last week urging governments to enact anti-defamation measures protecting attacks on Islam in the context of terrorism and human rights violations.

Both UNHRC resolutions follow on the heels of recent backlashes among the international Muslim community against the reprinting in February [JURIST report] of a cartoon depiction [image] of the Muslim prophet Muhammad by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Poste [media website] one day after Danish police arrested three people [JURIST reports] suspected in a plot to murder the original cartoonist. Protesters in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Sudan, and Pakistan [JURIST reports] saw the cartoons as a challenge to Muslim communities across the world. The newspaper defended its decision to reprint the cartoons, defending their freedoms of speech and expression. Similarly, far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders last week released a controversial 15-minute film [JURIST report], which shows images of the Quran contrasted with images of violence and protest. The film has been dismissed by the UN secretary-general as "offensively anti-Islamic" [JURIST report] and has also been met with protests from the Muslim community. AP has more.

 

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