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(SPOT.ph) In the heat of the "Kulo" exhibit controversy, the Filipino Freethinkers, an organization of atheists, said that a United Nations law “affirms the superiority of the right to free speech over the so-called right against blasphemy," reports GMA News. The Filipino Freethinkers raised this point in an article on their website, "UN Affirms Blasphemy as a Human Right" written by Garrick Bercero.
In its General Comment No. 34 on Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) dictates that “prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant." As a member of the UN, the Philippines is obliged to comply with its laws, pointed out Bercero.
But while the UNHRC paves for provisions regarding freedom of expression, it also restricts speech that goes against “the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health and morals," and “any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence." Bercero, however, clarified this statement vis-a-vis the "Kulo" situation. “The right to free speech is not absolute, yes, but it is abridged only by the risk of actual harm. Offense does not constitute real harm, according to our current understanding of the word," he said, adding that it was the artist Mideo Cruz and Cultural Center of the Philippines officials who received death threats.
Meanwhile, other "Kulo" supporters are clamoring for the exhibit's reopening, reports a separate GMA News story. "Kulo" was closed on August 8 following death threats and vandalism. In a statement, the University of the Philippines' Department of Studies wrote: "The closure of an exhibition only achieved the closure of democratic, informed and thoughtful engagement." The department is calling to re-open "Kulo" in an attempt to defend freedom of expression.