As a recent Pew Forum study reveals, blasphemy laws are widespread, with laws penalizing blasphemy, apostasy, or defamation of religion (including religious "hate speech") present in 94 countries. While in most countries, laws criminalizing certain types of speech apply to the Internet, some countries have recently crafted specific laws to ban or criminalize online expressions of blasphemy. Still others have cracked down on online speech using existing laws. Here's a roundup of some of the worst offenders in 2012:

Saudi Arabia

It should come as no surprise that ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia is strict on speech, but this year the country outdid itself when it extradited Hamza Kashgari, a young journalist who had penned an earnest letter to the Muslim prophet on Twitter, from Malaysia. A few months later, the country began mulling over new laws to “combat the criticism of the basic tenets of Islamic sharia” online.


In nearby Kuwait, the Information Minister announced in May plans to pass new lawsregulating the use of social networking sites amidst growing tensions between the country's Shi'a majority and Sunni minority. The proposal came after writer Mohammad al-Mulaifi was detained for "insulting the Muslim Shi'ite majority" on Twitter.