RSF_en News March 29, 2010 – Updated on January 25, 2016 Human Rights Council resolution on blasphemy Organisation Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned by a resolution condemning “defamation of religions” which the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted on 25 March. It was submitted by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).“Under the pretext of trying to reconcile freedom of expression and religious freedom, some member states are establishing a mechanism with the sole aim of forbidding criticism of religions, above all Islam,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This is a dangerous process that needs to be stopped. Respect for freedom of expression is as fundamental as respect for religious freedom. One cannot exist without the other.“Caricature, artistic freedom, the right of opinion and all other spheres of intellectual activity that constitute freedom of expression are endangered by this resolution. Its unfortunate result will be to even curb exchanges of views within religions while invoking the need to protect them. Will it be possible to debate ideas within a religion without running the risk of being accused of defamation by the dominant group seeking to impose its viewpoint?“Respect for free expression and democratisation is conspicuous by its absence in several OIC member countries. They use blasphemy laws for political ends, in order to ban all forms of debate and reinforce their authority. Journalist Mohageg Nassab had to flee Afghanistan because his newspaper, Women’s Rights, dared to call for a stop to the stoning of women. As a result, he was convicted of insulting Islam and sentenced to death. The authorities in many countries cast any debate about intellectual or social issues as a religious debate – a practical way of banning any criticism of the way they govern and preventing any evolution in moral standards.“This kind of resolution gives governments that show little respect for human rights more scope to continue discriminatory policies against religious minorities, dissidents and secularists. One may also wonder whether multinationals will not be tempted to introduce forms of prior censorship to avoid violating an international resolution. We have already seen leading international corporations filter their content to avoid upsetting certain markets, as in the case of cartoonist Pierre Kroll, some of whose bawdy drawings were censored by Apple from an iPhone app.”Reporters Without Borders also regrets the political aspects of the resolution, which was the outcome of internal UN machinations, and reminds member states of the danger of manipulating such sensitive issues for their own agendas.“Certain countries within the Human Rights Council have been pushing for the adoption of such a resolution for years,” the press freedom organisation said. “For them, this is just the first step. We will be watching for a second draft resolution in the coming months that could lead to an enforceable international instrument banning defamation of religions.”Reporters Without Borders is disturbed to see an organisation such as the UN Human Rights Council undermine its own credibility. “The blasphemy resolution’s adoption raises serious questions about the council’s credibility at a time when Iran, a country that can give no one lessons in human rights, is a candidate to be a member with a good chance of being accepted. We hope the council will not suffer the sad fate of its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, which fell victim to self-serving policies and had to dissolve itself in 2006.”Blasphemy is an ambiguous concept open to different interpretations, but Ireland nonetheless adopted a law last December making blasphemy punishable by a fine of up to 25,000 euros. Poland’s criminal code and broadcasting law have for several years required the Polish media to “respect Christian values.” Punishments for offending religious feelings range from a fine to two years in prison. Help by sharing this information
In a statement that highlighted both the importance of education to the American economy and the crippling loan debt faced by many students in institutions of higher educationOfficially, the program is known as “America’s College Promise Proposal: Tuition-free Community College for Responsible Students.” The program calls for community colleges to boost their curriculums and graduation rates, and calls upon states to invest more of their money into education and job training programs. The program’s timely announcement comes in light of new statistics, cited by the White House, that reveal that by 2020, the number of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree education at minimum will comprise 35 percent of the job market.The new plan outlines some requirements for the students. Eligible students must remain on a graduation track with a half-time course load or higher and maintain their grades at a 2.5 GPA or above to be eligible for the program’s free tuition for the first two years of their community college education. In order to make students able to transfer their community college education to four-year institutions, the Promise Proposal also calls on community colleges to revamp programs that currently are not transferable. If this condition isn’t met, the administration expects community colleges to offer two-year programs that train students for an in-demand job in the workforce.Tom Placido, a junior studying economics, was not convinced of the program’s ability to retain quality students and invest in the existing community college network.“Obama’s community college plan will flood already overcrowded institutions with underprepared students who don’t have a financial stake in their own education,” he said. “Couple that with community colleges’ underwhelming graduation and hiring rates, add in a huge federal incentive for grade inflation, and you’ve got a great recipe for fiscal and educational disaster.”Alec White, a junior majoring in political science, disagreed. White emphasized the increasing importance of a college education in the work force.“It is much harder in today’s job market to be successful with a high school degree than with a college degree and it is getting harder each day,” he said. “There are large numbers of talented students who do not go to college or even community college because their families cannot afford it. I think it is a great step in the right direction to help make college more affordable and help students get a more fair shot with education.”In addition to expecting involvement from students and community colleges, the program relies on the willingness of states to join the program. If they choose to adopt the initiative, states will be expected to fund one quarter of the cost of providing the free tuition.The program is flexible with state contributions. States that pledge to invest in the quality of community colleges and/or student outreach programs wouldn’t necessarily be expected to invest in the tuition share. To supplement the program, the White House also announced the creation of the American Technical Training Fund, which would award grants to create programs within community colleges that help transition students into jobs.In announcing the program, the Obama administration cited evidence that documents the success of similar, smaller programs in states around the country. When Tennessee introduced the program, for example, 90 percent of high school graduates applied, and the resulting programs produced Technology Training programs that placed 85 percent of graduates in jobs.The Promise Proposal’s effectiveness on a wider scale remains to be seen. It is the latest in a long line of similar efforts taken by the Obama administration to make college affordable, including increase funding for Pell Grants and easing the burden of student loans faced by former students.