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“What is the right punishment for blasphemy?”

BBC Asian Network asked that provocative question on its Twitter account @bbcasiannetwork last week, suggesting with the tweet that blasphemy deserves punishment. In Pakistan, blasphemy can be punished with the death penalty, the Guardian noted.

Outrage aimed at the BBC network’s Twitter account, with its 78,800 followers, resulted in the account posting apologies.

Adding to the provocation, the original March 17 BBC Asian Network tweet included a video of BBC Asian Network host Shazia Awan saying, “Today, I want to talk about blasphemy. What is the right punishment for blasphemy?”

Awan asked viewers for their feedback for a segment on the Pakistani government requesting Facebook to help keep blasphemy off the social network.

 

Swinging into damage control 30 hours after its initial tweet:

  • BBC Asian Network apologized for its “poorly worded question.”
  • The BBC Asian Network account added, “Q was in context of Pak asking FB to help we shd have made that clear.”
  • A follow-up tweet from BBC Asian Network continued, “We never intend to imply Blasphemy should be punished. Provocative question that got it wrong.”
  • BBC wrote an article about its own Twitter controversy
  • BBC issued a statement quoted in its  own article on the Twitter controversy, in which the BBC’s spokesperson said: “Asian Network’s Big Debate asks difficult and provocative questions every day. This programme was an engaging discussion on the subject of blasphemy, but we admit that the question could have been phrased better, as we have since made clear.”
  • The BBC’s spokesperson sent the same statement to iMediaEthics by e-mail, after being asked for more information about the incident. The BBC doesn’t say how many complaints it got.

Tweeters criticized the BBC, with one, @Bertyfish, mocking the BBC question, writing “next up: How many lashes should rape victims get for committing adultery?”

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Another tweeter, @Leonard D’Souza, wrote “poorly constructed, convoluted apology. Starting a discussion adds credibility to such outdated, pathetic state initiatives.”

A third, Manya Sharma, wrote “also please explain in what context are you asking ideas for punishment for blasphemy?”

 

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BBC Twitter Video, Tweet suggest Blasphemy deserves Punishment

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