Between Defamation of Religion (Blasphemy) and Hate Speech: The Meaning of Restriction to Freedom of Expression in International Law

A.A.A. Nanda Saraswati, Setiawan Wicaksono, M. Choirul Hidayat
Law Faculty of Brawijaya University
anandasaraswati@yahoo.com

Abstract
Defamation of religion (blasphemy) and hate speech are two most frequently debated issues in many countries today. Both issues became controversial because there is yet a formal and universal definition agreed by states in the international level. Thus, the interpretation of both concept is handed over to each state. Although different, in the national level these two concepts are often interpreted the same and sometimes even overly applied. In fact, there are states that expand the meaning of defamation of religion and hate speech which can lead to abuse in certain situations. But there are also states that enforce the laws on those two very carefully, where a ban on blasphemy and hate speech is considered incompatible with international human rights law, in particular the legally binding provisions on freedom of opinion and expression.

Freedom of opinion and expression itself is one of the fundamental and democratic human rights which is guaranteed and upheld by states both in national law and international law. However, this freedom is not absolute or in other words, there are restrictions. This restriction is interpreted differently by each state, making it possible for a conflict between blasphemy and hate speech on the one hand with freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom of religion and belief, on the other. Of course the issue of blasphemy and hate speech is not criticized solely on its actions, but also their impact, where such action can lead to intolerance and violence, whether in physical, verbal, and psychological that may disturb public order.

Giving the facts above, this paper aims to examine and analyze as follows: (1) What is the difference between defamation of religion (blasphemy) and hate speech in international law? (2) Do both blasphemy and hate speech constitute a legitimate restriction on freedom of expression? (3) What is the meaning/essence of restrictions on freedom of expression in international law? This framework of analysis is important to find a common concept that is not discriminatory in order to create a balance in the regulations of blasphemy and hate speech that will not jeopardize freedom of expression.

Keywords: blasphemy, hate speech, freedom of expression, human rights, international law

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