In a resolution adopted yesterday in Strasbourg, the European Parliament called on Pakistan to carry out a “thoroughgoing review” of its blasphemy laws because they were “open to misuse.” It also condemned the “contradiction” between the Pakistani government’s commitment to religious freedom and its “leading role” in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in seeking the UN’s condemnation of “defamation of religion.”
“We welcome this initiative by the European Parliament and the legitimacy of its requests to Pakistan,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But we draw the Parliament’s attention to the need to review European legislation on this subject at the same time. It is not very coherent to ask another country to carry out a thorough review of its blasphemy laws while continuing to accept the existence of a law in Ireland that criminalises blasphemy and makes it punishable by fines of up to 25,000 euros.
“We already asked the European Council on 4 January to contact the Irish authorities about this, unfortunately with little success. Other European countries (including Portugal, Denmark and Poland) still have similar laws providing for jail sentences and large fines. Even if they are rarely applied, their existence constitutes a restriction on freedom of expression that is incompatible with European democratic standards. It is vital that MEPs press with the same firmness for European legislation to be rid of these laws for good. The Parliament’s resolutions on this subject would then carry much more weight.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “At a time when Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks can no longer give a conference on the possibilities of making fun of religions without risking physical violence and Molotov cocktail attacks on his home, we think it is important for the European Parliament to remind member states that while article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees freedom of worship, article 11 guarantees the ability to criticise religions and, by extension, blasphemy.”