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Irland20 May 2009

Justice minister wants to keep blasphemy as a crime

Reporters Without Borders is opposed to a bill making blasphemy punishable by a fine of up to 100,000 euros that justice minister Dermot Ahern submitted to parliament on 29 April. It would also allow criminal courts to order searches of premises and homes in order to seize material regarded as “blasphemous”.

The bill is a follow-up to another bill already before parliament that would scrap prison sentences for blasphemous libel.

“The concept of defamation of religion or blasphemy is a legal aberration that violates the principle of freedom of opinion enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Human Rights Convention,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said.

“At a time when so many intellectuals and journalists are being arrested and jailed around the world for criticising religions, Ireland cannot allow itself to retain such an anachronistic concept. The use of searches in order to seize material is, at the very least, questionable and in complete contradiction with the need to protect privacy and the confidentiality of sources. Blasphemy is not an outrage. It is an opinion. Convicting someone for freely expressing an opinion is unacceptable.

“The decriminalisation of press offences and defamation initiated by the justice minister should apply to all forms of freedom of expression including the expression of views that could shock a particular community. We urge the justice minister to withdraw this bill in its entirety.”

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