Legal Restrictions on Thought & Expression: Pakistan, Egypt, Thailand, Bahrain – and Turkey



Turkey’s “strongman” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is going the extra mile in his trajectory of authoritarianism by challenging a Constitutional Court ruling, effectively conflating freedom of expression with espionage, notes veteran analyst and journalist Cengiz Candar (for further coverage of the case, check out P24, Turkey’s leading platform for independent journalism).

Turkey is just one of a number of countries in which counter-terrorism, blasphemy, sedition and similar laws are increasingly used to restrict free inquiry and expression, resulting in a shrinking academic and societal space for dialogue. Wrongful prosecutions under these laws not only threaten the well-being of targeted individuals, but undermine the quality of academic work and public discourse and deny everyone in society the benefits of expert knowledge, scientific and creative progress, and free expression.

These laws are often defended as reasonable restrictions on violent or anti-social conduct or as appropriate expressions of national or cultural prerogatives. In practice they are used to restrict thought, punish expression, and intimidate individuals and society generally.

At a forthcoming event at the National Endowment for Democracy, panelists from Pakistan, Egypt, Bahrain, and Thailand will discuss how these laws affect their work and research.


Rafia Zakaria, Pakistan

Pakistani-American author, journalist, and lawyer

Emad Shahin, Egypt
Visiting professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service

Matar Ebrahim Matar, Bahrain
Former Bahraini MP, activist, &  former NED Reagan-Fascell Fellow

Khorapin Phuaphansawat, Thailand

Doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Moderator: Robert Quinn
Executive Director, Scholars at Risk

MON, MAR 14 AT 12:00 PM

National Endowment for Democracy

1025 F St NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC


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