“Don’t Say It…or Else”: Blasphemy in the 2020s

Up to recently, news coverage in the 2020’s has been overwhelmingly dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the many considerations, concerns and controversies it has led to. Not least of these has been recurring concerns over the nature of public discourse about COVID-19, mRNA vaccines, the roles of big pharmaceutical companies, media corporations, government, churches and community organizations. One hopes that the world is emerging from active concern over the uncertainties of a global pandemic.

But our experience so far in these 2020’s out to make one think about the nature of the freedom of expression and about the various kinds of laws designed to curtail it. And it makes us think….so what is the state of blasphemy these days?

Well, as always, the Pew Research Center, has some information. A recent headline on the Pew website states that 40% of countries wordwide still have a blasphemy law on the books. That’s 79 countries. 22 countries have a law against apostasy.

A map showing that eighteen countries in the Middle East-North Africa region had blasphemy laws in 2019
Image Courtesy of Pew Research Center

As the infographic implies, most of the countries where this is a fact are in Africa and the Middle-East. With that, there’s more than a billion people on the planet for whom blasphemy, in its more original speaking-against-god(s)-and-religious-authoritarians context, is still a clear and present restriction of their fundamental human right to the freedom of expression.

Do a modest internet search at any given time, and you’ll still read such headlines as:

A list of headlines (and the situations they describe) is not, unfortunately, exhaustive, authoritative and final. There’s certainly more going on in the world of “Don’t Say it….or else” than this. But with all the pandemic distractions in mainstream media, maybe the fact that some ideologues don’t intend to tolerate ideas they don’t agree with has been escaping our collective notice? Maybe.

Maybe it’s time to catch up on some reading.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://end-blasphemy-laws.org/

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://en.unesco.org/news/toolkit-judges-freedom-expression
  2. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/01/25/four-in-ten-countries-and-territories-worldwide-had-blasphemy-laws-in-2019-2/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.


The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

UNESCO Releases Judiciary Toolkit for Freedom of Expression

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we locate articles and information published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following information is drawn from UNESCO’s website.


On February 7, 2022, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) launched the Training Manual for Judges on International Standards on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, a comprehensive toolkit for supporting judges to take into account international human rights standards on freedom of expression in their decisions, has been launched. The toolkit was prepared by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) in collaboration with International Media Support (IMS), UNESCO and the Judicial Institute of Jordan, and piloted at a training of judges in Amman, Jordan in September/October 2021.The toolkit is divided into six main modules, namely: International and National Guarantees of Freedom of Expression, The Legitimate Scope of Criminal and Civil Law Restrictions on the Right to Freedom of Expression, Legal Resolution of Attacks on Freedom of Expression, The Right to Access Public Information, Media Regulation to Promote Free, Independent and Diverse Media, and Regulating Freedom of Expression in the Digital Era. It also has a number of annexes addressing common questions and answers, and containing exercises to support the training and additional resources.

The 126-page toolkit contains six modules, covering International and National Guarantees of Freedom of Expression, The Legitimate Scope of Criminal and Civil Law Restrictions on the Right to Freedom of Expression, Legal Resolution of Attacks on Freedom of Expression, The Right to Access Public Information, Media Regulation to Promote Free, Independent and Diverse Media, and Regulating Freedom of Expression in the Digital Era.

The key objective of the toolkit is to promote freedom of expression by helping judges integrate international standards on this fundamental human right into their domestic decisions. It builds on work in this area by UNESCO in Latin America and Africa but is specifically tailored to freedom of expression issues that are commonly found in the Arab World.

The launch of the tool followed a recent Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) conducted by UNESCO and the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford.

Close to 5,000 judicial actors, including judges, prosecutors, lawyers and representatives of judicial training academies, as well as civil society representatives from around the world were trained on international standards and regional jurisprudence on freedom of expression. The highest numbers of participants joined the MOOC from the Philippines, Kenya, United States, Brazil, India, Thailand, Zimbabwe and Zambia.The 5-week course, from 10 May until 07 June 2021, was unique in its global scope on freedom of expression issues, and particularly targeted judges and members of the judiciary, given their essential role in the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression. The course strengthened the knowledge and capacities of judicial actors on regional and international human rights standards through five Modules, including, (1) the general principles and scope of freedom of expression; (2) the limitations on the right to freedom of expression; (3) the right of access to information; (4) the question of the safety of journalists; and, (5) challenges created by the digital world .Notably, the course raised awareness of judicial actors on the legal protection and rights of journalists under international law, particularly addressing the threats, attacks and killings of journalists, the specific nature of threats against women journalists, as well as the importance to protect the secrecy of sources for journalists.

Since 2013, UNESCO’s Judges’ Initiative has trained judicial actors and representatives of civil society on the international and regional standards on freedom of expression, access to information and the safety of journalists in Latin America, Africa and the Arab region. Following the global MOOC on freedom of expression, a total number of 23,000 judicial actors and civil society representatives from 150 countries have been trained on these fundamental issues. While the first global MOOC was in English, subsequent editions will be rolled-out in additional languages in the future. The course received support from the Multi Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists.

In continuity with these efforts to raise awareness on issues related to freedom of expression, UNESCO has also developed an explainer video on the role of the judiciary in ending impunity for crimes against journalists, available in 6 UN languages: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Chinese.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: https://en.unesco.org/news/toolkit-judges-freedom-expression
  2. https://indiaeducationdiary.in/unesco-university-of-oxford-conclude-a-mooc-for-judicial-actors-on-freedom-of-expression/#:~:text=UNESCO%20and%20the%20Bonavero%20Institute%20of%20Human%20Rights,access%20to%20information%20and%20the%20safety%20of%20journalists.
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuQTq2Ej6q8
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0NA2cI1da8
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTfyeYWB77U

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.