Why defamation laws do not protect vulnerable holders of faith

Three human rights experts scrutinise the defamation of religion, which they argue misses the point by protecting faith but not vulnerable believes

Dr Nazila Ghanea, a lecturer in international human rights law at the University of Oxford, tells Free Speech Debate that the UN resolution on the defamation of religion was “hugely problematic” because it protected faith rather than minorities. “It doesn’t protect freedom of religion or belief in any way shape or form as captured in international human rights standards,” says Ghanea. Agnes Callamard, executive director at Article 19, argues that the debate over the resolution intensified after the September 11 attacks in the US. “It was a complete product of 9/11, the war on terror and the civilisation conflict that played itself out in Geneva in the human rights council,” she says. Susan Benesch, a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, adds that in her experience there is a divide between religious individuals who often conflate their religion with themselves and others, such as herself, who see a clear distinction.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.)

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford. www.freespeechdebate.ox.ac.uk

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