Media freedom in Europe needs action more than words

This article is part of a series on the state of media freedom across the globe, ahead of World Press Freedom Day published by Index on Censorship

By Paco Audije / 1 May, 2015

As we approach World Press Freedom Day, the right to freedom of expression will again be celebrated as an inalienable European value across the continent — by the public, the media and politicians alike. But to many, this will mean little more than engaging in a well trodden mental routine. We hardly consider the difficulties that freedom of expression faces in practice.

In the first part of 2015, more than a third of journalist killings in the word took place in two European countries; France and Ukraine. If it is true that Europe’s reactions to the Charlie Hebdo attack — the majority of them very emotional — were salubrious, they simultaneously gave rise to ambiguous situations. Many of the leaders that will on 3 May reaffirm their commitment free expression, supported the same message by taking part in the historic march in Paris on 11 January.

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Why the Future of Religion Is Bleak

Religious institutions have survived by controlling what their adherents know, argues Tufts Prof. Daniel C. Dennett, but today that is next to impossible

By DANIEL C. DENNETT - April 26, 2015 / published by WSJ

 Religion has been waning in influence for several centuries, especially in Europe and North America. There have been a few brief and local revivals, but in recent years the pace of decline has accelerated.

Today one of the largest categories of religious affiliation in the world—with more than a billion people—is no religion at all, the “Nones.” One out of six Americans is already a None; by 2050, the figure will be one out of four, according to a new Pew Research Center study. Churches are being closed by the hundreds, deconsecrated and rehabilitated as housing, offices, restaurants and the like, or just abandoned.

If this trend continues, religion largely will evaporate, at least in the West. Pockets of intense religious activity may continue, made up of people who will be more sharply differentiated from most of society in attitudes and customs, a likely source of growing tension and conflict.

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Conchita Wurst caused Balkan floods after Eurovision win, say church leaders

Conchita Wurst is responsible for the flooding in the Balkans that left over 50 people dead, according to church leaders

Conchita Wurst, winner, 2015 Eurovision contest

Conchita Wurst is responsible for flooding that left over 50 people dead earlier this month, church leaders in the Balkans have claimed.

The Austrian drag artist, whose real name is Thomas Neuwirth, seized international attention after winning Eurovision 2014 with his hit Rise Like a Phoenix.

However, several church leaders have now claimed the recent devastating flooding across the Balkans, which was the worst in a century and left over 50 people dead, was "divine punishment" for Conchita's victory.

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Islam finds a place in Germany's classrooms

0423-odeutschislamGermany is beginning to grant Muslims the sort of entitlements given to Christians and Jews, including having their religion taught in schools and universities – something that could be key for fighting radical Islam.

According to Yahoo News, a half hour away from the shimmering banks of the Main river, Timur Kumlu has just read 20-odd second-graders a chapter from the Quran, about Abraham looking for Allah, but finding him neither in the sun, the wind, nor the moon.

Who is Abraham? One boy with piercing dark eyes jumps in. “He trusted Allah!”

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The challenges facing atheists in the U.S.

Fifty-three percent of Americans say they'd be less likely to support an atheist for president, and almost half say they'd be unhappy if a family member married an atheist. Mo Rocca reports on the many consequences that those who come out as non-believers suffer in a nation founded on religious tolerance.

Bangladeshi Government: Prosecute Islamists who Killed Avijit Roy and Protect Freethinkers

3328ab6be8fd2ba088ec601bfdecca44We are outraged by the senseless and brutal hacking to death of well known scientist, atheist and writer Avijit Roy and the serious attack on his wife and blogger, Rafida Ahmed Banna, by Islamists.
Avijit had received numerous threats over the years for publishing articles critical of Islam, and promoting secular views, science and social issues on the Bengali-language blog, Mukto-mona (Free Mind), which he founded. He had travelled to Bangladesh from the US to attend a book fair where his book “The Virus of Faith” was being launched. It was whilst he was returning from the fair, that he was brutally killed.
This is not the first time atheists and secularists have been attacked in Bangladesh. In addition to the well known threats received by writer Taslima Nasrin, 29 year old blogger Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed and Ahmed Rajib killed in 2013. In 2004, Humayun Azad, a secular writer and professor at Dhaka University, was also attacked and later died.
Whilst Islamists have continued to threaten prominent bloggers and called for the “execution of 84 atheist bloggers for insulting religion”, the Bangladeshi government has done little to defend the lives and security of freethinkers. In 2013, the government even arrested bloggers and shut websites down instead of arresting the Islamists involved.
We stand united in our grief for Avijit Roy with Mukto-muna but remain undefeated. We unequivocally condemn the attack on Avijit and his wife and also the many threats against atheist, secularist and freethinking bloggers and call on the Bangladeshi government to prosecute the Islamists involved, guarantee the safety of dissenters and respect free expression. Freedom of expression, including to criticise Islam and Islamism as well as to blaspheme, is a basic right.
We are all Avijit.

Brazil leads the world in religious freedom



Among the 26 most populous countries, Brazil has the highest levels of religious freedom, higher, in fact, than the United States, where government restrictions on religious freedom have been rising.

According to The Weekly Number, Brazil - the world's fifth most populous nation - not only out performs other countries of is size, the Brazilian government has the best record on religious freedom worldwide, placing virtually no measurable restrictions on religious freedom, scoring 0.2 out of a maximum of 10.0 on the Government Restrictions on Religion index, recently published by the Pew Research Center. 

Among the 26 most populous nations, seven have governments that are very highly restrictive of religious freedom (see chart): China (scoring 9.1 out of 10.0), Indonesia (8.5), Iran (8.3), Egypt (8.2), Burma/Myanmar (7.7), Russia (7.4), Turkey (7.4), according to the Pew index. Six arehighly restrictive: Pakistan (6.4), Vietnam (6.1), Bangladesh (5.2), India (5.0), Ethiopia (4.6), and Germany (4.5). Five are moderately restrictive: Thailand (4.4), France (4.2), Nigeria (4.1), Mexico (3.4), and the United States (3.0). And eight have low government restrictions on religious freedom: South Korea (2.0), Italy (2.0), United Kingdom (1.7), D.R. Congo (1.1), Japan (1.1), Philippines (1.0), South Africa (0.7), Brazil (0.2). 

 For more details please check The Weekly Numbers

Russia looks to lift first barrier to Islamic finance and Sharia laws as crisis grows

22 Reuters, Russian lawmakers have introduced to parliament a draft bill to support Islamic finance, aiming to attract capital inflows at a time when an economic slowdown is intensifying and Western sanctions show no sign of being lifted.

The draft law, sent to parliament's lower house, the State Duma, this week, proposes allowing banks to engage in trade activities, a concept central to many of the structures used in sharia-compliant financial products.

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