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Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (file photo)

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered that "blasphemous" content on social media websites be removed or blocked.

Sharif also said those responsible for posting such material will be "strictly punished."

"Effective steps must be taken immediately to remove and block such content," Sharif said in a March 14 statement.

Blasphemy is a criminal offense in Pakistan and can carry the death penalty. It is also a highly sensitive issue in a country where dozens have been murdered over blasphemy allegations, according to the Center for Research and Security Studies.

Sharif instructed Pakistan's Foreign Ministry to demand the blocking of blasphemous content by foreign social media companies. No company was mentioned by name, but social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are popular in Pakistan.

"All relevant institutions must unite to hunt those who spread such material and to award them strict punishment under the law," Sharif said.

Sharif's move is likely to appeal to his conservative voter base ahead of elections next year.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dawn.com
Russian rights activist Oleg Orlov (file photo)

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that the Russian state was behind an attack on a prominent rights defender and three journalists in 2007, and ordered Moscow to compensate them for "illegal freedom deprivation and torture."

The ECHR's March 14 ruling says that Russian security services were involved in the attack on the leader of the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center, Oleg Orlov, and a crew from Russian channel REN-TV.

Orlov and a crew from REN-TV were in the North Caucasus region of Ingushetia to cover protests over the death of a child during a security operation. They said that unidentified men in military uniforms rushed into their hotel in the city of Nazran, abducted them, beat them, and threatened to kill them if they ever came to Ingushetia again.

"Given that the [Russian] Government [has] advanced no plausible explanation for the events in question, the Court finds that the persons who took the applicants from the hotel to the field... and subjected them to ill-treatment on the night of 23 November 2007 were State agents," the ruling said.

Authorities in Ingushetia dropped their investigation into the attack in 2008. Orlov and the journalists filed the lawsuit with the ECHR in 2012.

The ECHR also ruled that Russia must pay the men 84,000 euros ($89,700) in compensation for the "illegal freedom deprivation and torture" that it said was not properly investigated by the officials.

With reporting by tvrain.ru and meduza.io

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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