NICK EICHER, HOST: : Coming next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour. Here is WORLD’s Africa reporter Onize Ohikere.
ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: EU ruling on free speech—We start today in Brussels, where the European Court of Human Rights dealt a blow to free speech. Justices upheld the conviction of an Austrian woman who accused Islam’s founder of preying on children.
According to historical accounts, one of Muhammad’s wives was just 6 years old. During two seminars in 2009, the Austrian woman reportedly said, “What do we call it, if it is not pedophelia?” A Vienna court convicted her in 2011 of disparaging religious doctrines.
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Last week Europe’s highest court found her conviction did not violate free speech protections under the European Convention on Human Rights. It ruled the Austrian courts correctly balanced the woman’s freedom of expression with Muslims’ right to have their religious feelings protected. It also ruled Austrian authorities had a legitimate purpose in pursuing a conviction: keeping the religious peace.
Ireland presidential/blasphemy election—Meanwhile, voters in Ireland moved in the opposite ideological direction. On Friday, Ireland voted to remove blasphemy as an offense from its constitution. No one had ever been prosecuted under the 1937 law. But other countries with blasphemy laws—including Pakistan—have used the Irish law to defend their own.
Here’s Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanaghan.
FLANAGHAN: The provisional results of the referendum held yesterday on the proposal for the 37th amendment of the constitution is as follows. Majority of votes in favor of the proposal, 435,842.
Flanaghan went on to say, “By removing this provision from our constitution, we can send a strong message to the world that laws against blasphemy do not reflect Irish values and that we do not believe such laws should exist.”
Blasphemy laws remain common in Europe. But the rise of immigration from predominantly Muslim countries has reignited debate over free speech and religious tolerance.
Worldwide, 71 nations have laws that criminalize blasphemy. In six countries, it is punishable by death.
Bystanders thwart Magna Carta theft—Next we go to England, where bystanders helped thwart what would have been a historic crime. On Thursday, an unidentified man entered Salisbury Cathedral carrying a hammer. To the shock of onlookers, he began pounding on the case containing a copy of the Magna Carta. He made three large holes in the glass before church staff wrestled him to the ground.
Nicholas Papadopulos, the cathedral’s dean, told That’s TV caretakers removed the document for safekeeping after the attack.
PAPADOPULOS: It will be back on display as soon as we can have it ready for display, and we are cooperating with police in their inquiries.
The document, signed by King John in 1215, is considered a precursor to modern political constitutions. It guaranteed British barons certain rights, including protection from illegal imprisonment. The copy on display at Salisbury is one of only four in existence.
Ethiopia elects first woman president—And finally, we go to East Africa where Ethiopians are celebrating the country’s first female president—Sahle-Work Zewde.
Ethiopia’s presidency is mostly ceremonial, but Zewde said she plans to use the role to promote women’s rights.
ZEWDE: The absence of peace, above all, victimizes women, so during my tenure I will emphasize women’s roles…so that women can enjoy the dividends that come with peace.
Zewde is a long-time diplomat at the UN who has also served as Ethiopia’s ambassador to France and Djibouti.
That’s this week’s World Tour. I’m Onize Ohikere.