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The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and the organisations supporting this joint statement welcome the appointment of Dr. Ahmed Shaheed as the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and his report to be presented at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC). We look forward to engaging with the mandate to address the persistent implementation gaps concerning the exercise of the right to freedom of religion or belief.
The space available for expressing opinions in relation to religion has consistently come under attack, especially in online spaces. This worrying trend is particularly pronounced in Asian states where there are multiple ethnicities and religious groups cohabiting, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Online platforms, and more particularly social media, have provided an alternative medium for not only expression of opinion, but the development of discourses that may otherwise be difficult to find in traditional offline platforms. Similarly, the internet has also created a space for expression related to or touching upon issues that deal with or pertain to religion. However, such expression has been increasingly met with censorship, criminalisation and has, at times, resulted in offline attacks and killings in Asia.