Social media blasphemy cases went up four-fold in 2012: rights group


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The International Humanist and Ethical Union has reported a four-fold increase in the number of blasphemy cases triggered by social media this year. 

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According to the report, three such cases were recorded last year, compared to over a dozen this year -- with atheists and non-believers a particular target.

"When 21st century technology collides with medieval blasphemy laws, it seems to be atheists who are getting hurt, as more of them go to prison for sharing their personal beliefs via social media,” according to report editor Matt Cherry

The institute's study, entitled, "Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Non-religious" highlighted the following cases: 

  • Indonesia: Alexander Aan handed a two-and-a-half-year sentence for atheistic Facebook posts
  • Tunisia: Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji, both non-believers, jailed for over seven years for Facebook activity
  • Turkey: Fazil Say, atheist, on trial for "blasphemous" tweets
  • Greece: Phillipos Loizos faces charges of insulting religion after criticizing belief in miracles on Facebook
  • Egypt: Gamal Abdou Massoud, 17, given three years and Bishoy Kamel given six for sharing cartoons deemed "blasphemous" on Facebook; Egypt "Facebook Atheists" founder Alber Saber to face trial on Wednesday

The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief Heiner Bielefeldt, writing in the forward, said there is often "little awareness" that international human rights law applies equally to "atheists, humanists and freethinkers and their convictions, practices and organizations." 

The International Humanist and Ethical Union serves as an umbrella organization for over 100 like-minded institutions in over 40 countries.