VIENNA, 17 August 2012 – Responding to the verdict against the Russian punk band Pussy Riot today, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović warned of a dangerous tendency towards curbing freedom of expression.
“I see a trend in various countries where the authorities, social and religious groups and courts are taking a more restrictive stance on content considered to be offensive, morally questionable or dangerous for children. Most of the time it is a pretext for censoring content that is simply not mainstream and critical,” said Mijatović.
“Charges of hooliganism and religious hatred should not be used to curb freedom of expression. Speech no matter how provocative, satirical or sensitive should not be restricted or suppressed and under no circumstances should it lead to imprisonment.”
“I have been entrusted by 56 countries to advocate and promote full compliance with OSCE principles and commitments regarding freedom of expression and I am obligated to react to these disturbing developments,” she added. “Freedom of expression in all its traditional and modern forms and formats will be irreparably damaged if the current practice and the underlying laws are not changed.”
In addition to the Pussy Riot case, she also recalled the recent “teddy bear” case in Belarus. Anton Suryapin, a 20-year old editor of a photo blog, is now in custody for uploading photographs of teddy bears that had been dropped over Belarus. Other journalists were briefly detained and fined for taking photos of teddy bears to express their support for Suryapin.
The Representative also mentioned the recent initiative of a Ukrainian Christian group to ban animated cartoons, including Sponge Bob, and other content that “create criminals and perverts”.
Mijatović asked all OSCE participating States to review overly restrictive bans on expression which do not fulfill the three-part test of the European Court of Human Rights that any ban should be “prescribed by law, pursue a legitimate aim and be necessary in a democratic society.”