Why has blasphemy been decriminalized

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Five years after the bloody terrorist attack on "Charlie Hebdo", journalist organizations and UN special rapporteurs are calling for the decriminalization of "blasphemy". The Swiss government wants to stick to the blasphemy ban.

"I do not think that democracy and human rights can exist without the right to blasphemy," said the lawyer from "Charlie Hebdo", Richard Malka, at a press conference in Paris. The situation has worsened: "Who still dares to criticize religions today?"

The “right to blasphemy” must be recognized and enforced worldwide, so the tenor on Tuesday, January 7th at the memorial event exactly five years after the terror attack on “Charlie Hebdo”.

None of the previous UN resolutions on the protection of journalists had mentioned the danger posed by religious intolerance, said Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders (ROG). Therefore, all UN member states would have to decriminalize blasphemy.

Blasphemy laws are used in some places to reinforce threats, said David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. His colleague too Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom, supported the demand for decriminalization.

As of 2015, only eight countries have abolished blasphemy laws, according to Humanists International. In 69 countries, "blasphemy" is therefore still punishable. In Saudi Arabia, for example, she is punished with corporal punishment, in Egypt with imprisonment or the death penalty.

And for the reprint of the Prophet Mohammed with a tear in his eye and the sign “Je suis Charlie” in his hand, two “Cumhuriyet” columnists in Turkey were sentenced to two years in prison in 2016.

Switzerland, too, has a ban on blasphemy to this day. Article 261 of the Criminal Code says: "Anyone who publicly and in a common way insults or mocks the convictions of others in matters of faith, in particular belief in God, or dishonors objects of religious veneration, will be punished with a fine."

The Green Liberal National Council Beat flat demanded a year ago by motion to remove the blasphemy ban. However, the Federal Council took a protective stand against the paragraph.