BBC Asia has apologised after it posted the question “what is the right punishment for blasphemy?” on its Asian Network Twitter account .
The tweet was intended to promote a debate about blasphemy on social media in Pakistan with presenter Shazia Awan.
In an apology, the network said it never intended to imply that blasphemy should be punished and said the tweet was poorly worded.
Apologies for poorly worded question from #AsianNetwork yday. Q was in context of Pak asking FB to help we shd have made that clear 1/2— BBC Asian Network (@bbcasiannetwork) March 18, 2017
We never intend to imply Blasphemy should be punished. Provocative question that got it wrong 2/2— BBC Asian Network (@bbcasiannetwork) March 18, 2017
It emerged this week that Pakistan has asked Facebook and Twitter to help identify Pakistanis suspected of blasphemy so it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.
Under the country’s blasphemy laws , anyone found to have insulted Islam or the prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.
The interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said an official in Pakistan’s Washington embassy had approached the two social media companies in an effort to identify Pakistanis, either within the country or abroad, who recently shared material deemed offensive to Islam .
He said Pakistani authorities had identified 11 people for questioning over alleged blasphemy and would seek the extradition of anyone living abroad.
The BBC’s tweet prompted anger and disbelief on social media. Human rights campaigner Maryam Namazie said the tweet was “disgraceful”.
@BBCNews We could inform the BBC's Asian Network there should be NO punishment for blasphemy. We're not living in the Middle Ages— Malcolm Wood (@Askrigglad) March 18, 2017
@bbcasiannetwork The fact that it appears that BBC Asian network has not roundly condemned punishment for blasphemy. One has to conclude you support it!!— Clive Norman (@Clive752) March 18, 2017