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Media and religious groups meet about cartoons

Human Rights Commission

8 February 2006

Media and religious groups meet to resolve cartoon controversy

Media and religious representatives will meet today in Wellington to discuss the issues surrounding the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mahommed in some New Zealand media.

The meeting has been convened by the Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres.

Television representatives and newspaper editors, including Tim Pankhurst of the Dominion Post and Paul Thomspon of The Press, will meet with Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious leaders.

Also in attendance will be representatives from the Journalism Training Organisation, the Commonwealth Press Union and Victoria and Canterbury Universities.

"I hope that there will be a free and frank exchange of the different perspectives and constructive discussion about how we can move forward from the confrontation of the past few days," Mr de Bres said.

"It would be good if we could agree on a strategy to examine these issues more thoroughly so there is common ground to consider any matters that might arise in the future."

Mr de Bres said that the Human Rights Commission has a statutory role to encourage harmonious relations between the diverse groups in New Zealand society.

"Under the Human Rights Act, people can lodge a complaint of racial disharmony on the basis of colour, race or ethnic or national origins. Being Muslim does not come within the meaning of the phrase 'ethnic origins'.

"While publication of the cartoons is not unlawful, it does raise the issue of freedom of expression for the media and the responsibilities that come with it.

"Forums like this are valuable because they bring different groups to the table where they can listen to each other, better understand each other's perspectives and develop practical strategies to resolve differences," he said.

ENDS

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