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Silencing Religious Freedom in Africa: The Impact of Speech Restrictions


U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Briefing

Silencing Religious Freedom in Africa: The Impact of Speech Restrictions

Tuesday, December 10, 2019
9:30 – 10:30 AM
421 Cannon House Office building

Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a briefing on its latest report, Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Hate Speech Laws in Africa: Implications for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and a discussion with expert panelists about restrictions on civic space in Africa and ways U.S. policy can help address these concerns.

Across the continent, more than half the countries have laws limiting speech that do, or could, also restrict freedom of religion or belief. There are numerous ways to protect religious freedom without limiting free expression, but often governments resort to harsh measures that marginalize and repress. From the arbitrary or misapplication of hate speech laws in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, to the death sentence for blasphemy imposed on a blogger in Mauritania, to the blanket criminalization of proselytizing by non-Muslims in Algeria, speech restrictions often violate international standards and are subject to government abuse. Vague laws with severe criminal penalties also often target minority religious communities.

Panelists will discuss tools and strategies for governments and civil society to counter hate speech, discrimination, and violence based on religious identity in Africa, and will offer recommendations for U.S. government action.

Panelist Bio's

  • Kirsten Lavery, International Legal Specialist, USCIRF
    Written Statement
  • Ferdaouis Bagga, Policy Analyst, USCIRF
    Written Statement
  • Mike Jobbins, Associate Vice President, Global Affairs and Partnerships, Search for Common Ground
    Written Statement
  • Dunia Tegegn, Almami Cyllah Africa Fellow, Amnesty International USA



This briefing is open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the public, and the media. Members of the media can RSVP at media@uscirf.gov. For any questions please contact Jamie Staley at Jstaley@uscirf.gov or 202-786-0606.


732 NORTH CAPITOL STREET, NW SUITE A714 | WASHINGTON, DC 20401 | (202) 523-3240

Tony Perkins, Chair · Gayle Manchin, Vice Chair · Nadine Maenza, Vice Chair 
Gary Bauer · Anurima Bhargava · Tenzin Dorjee
Andy Khawaja · Johnnie Moore

Erin D. Singshinsuk, Executive Director


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad.