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Regional Consultation on Expression, Opinion and Religious Freedom in Asia

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Regional Consultation - Expression Opinion Religious Freedom Logo

From 3-5 June 2015, human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and activists met in Jakarta for a
regional consultation on ‘Expression, Opinion, and Religious Freedom in Asia’.  The aim of the Consultation was to discuss, debate, understand and identify solutions for urgent human rights challenges that emerge at the intersections between freedoms of expression and freedom of religion and belief.

While human rights are universal and indivisible, across Asia states and non-state actors are increasingly positing that the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief are in opposition, and developing laws and policies to curtail a multitude of fundamental human rights on this basis. The consultation sought to map out some of these threats across countries, including the impacts on education, sexual and reproductive health, freedom of assembly,  privacy, the rights to fair trials and due process, and more.

The main objectives of the event were:

  • To develop an understanding regarding the direction of future advocacy of FoE in the context of religious freedoms;
  • To understand what role the internet is playing and can play in promoting freedom of expression and religious toleration online;
  • To raise awareness about Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred;
  • To engage the relevant UN Special Procedures mandate holders in the current debate over issues of Freedom of Expression and Religious Freedoms in Asia; and
  • To generate global support for the region from research think tanks, academia, donors and human rights friendly governments to help reverse the negative trends on basic freedoms.


In addition to civil society members, the consultation also brought together the former and current UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye and Frank La Rue, to share insights and perspectives on the scope of freedom of expression in line with international human rights law.

David Kaye delivered the keynote address, and also a public lecture outlining the basic framework for freedom of opinion and expression in human rights law, and varying social, cultural, demographic pressures that hinder freedom of expression today. View the lecture here.

After three days of plenaries, round table discussions, and small group work, one outcome of the consultation was the development of the Jakarta Recommendations, a set of civil society calls made to governments and intergovernmental bodies to address setbacks in freedoms of expression and religion, and the intersection of these rights, in the region.

The event was organized by Bytes4All Pakistan, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), ICT Watch, Global Partners Digital, the Association for Progressive Communication (APC), the Internet Democracy Project, KontraS and the Open Society Foundation.

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