Chances are, at one time or another, you’ve made somebody angry on Facebook or another social media site. Most likely, however, the situation blew over so quickly you barely remember it. But, in some cases, posting “offensive” content on a social media site can cause serious trouble–or even warrant the use of the death penalty, as is currently happening to a man in Pakistan.
A Pakistani man, Taimoor Raza, is facing the death penalty for posting “blasphemous content” on his profile. The man allegedly posted inflammatory comments about Muhammad, the Prophet of the Islamic Faith. These alleged comments were said to have concerned the Prophet’s wives and mistresses
This government ruling has drawn a fierce backlash from global human rights watch groups, including Amnesty International. Amnesty reports that these blasphemy laws are often used to target religious minorities.
Not “Unusual” in the Pakistani Justice System
Although this is hardly the first time that Pakistan’s justice system has come under fire from
Even conservative critics worry that Pakistan is setting a dangerous precedent with this ruling.
When a Pakistani citizen is accused of blasphemy, they are ensnared in a labyrinthine legal system that offers few chances to plead their case. The Pakistani justice system has been described as “Kafkaesque”, because a claim of blasphemy doesn’t need to be verified.
Even Pakistan’s Supreme Court acknowledges that a majority of these cases were based upon hearsay and false accusations. Although they’ve overturned many decisions, other “blasphemers” haven’t been quite so lucky. Even when charges of blasphemy are dropped, Pakistani citizens often still must face the wrath of brutal mob “justice”.
Pakistan’s Social Media Problem
Pakistan has had a complicated history with its citizens’ use of social media sites. While they were once considered the type of platform that could be used for free expression, it has transformed into a sort of “no man’s land”, where users fear the wrath of government and vigilante justice.
Far from decrying this situation, Pakistan’s government regularly warns its citizens of the punishments for blasphemy via public service announcements in local media, including newspapers and Pakistani television channels. According to The Atlantic, this is hardly a unique occurrence of government intimidation techniques.
In early 2017, Facebook reportedly sent a group of experts to Pakistan to hear their government leaders’ concerns about the presence of blasphemy on Pakistani social media profiles.
Facebook itself has yet to make any public comment regarding Raza’s sentence by Pakistan’s government. It’s not the first instance of issues with Pakistan–Pakistan’s own government has expressed a desire to eliminate all online and public blasphemy, which they regard as an “unpardonable offense” according to the BBC.
Taimoor Raza’s fate has yet to be decided, but Pakistan’s controversial new “cyber crime” laws continue to spark controversy around the world. Facebook’s own opinion (or lack thereof) in this matter will likely set its own precedent in regards to how the social media giant either sides with or against repressive and unjust governments and justice systems worldwide.
We appreciate you reading this piece of breaking news–keep checking in with us for updates on this rapidly unfolding story. If you have any comments or questions about this story, feel free to let us know in the section below.