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Positive outcome over cartoon controversy - HRC

Positive outcome from meeting over cartoon controversy

The following statement was agreed to by all participants at a meeting held today between media and religious representatives to discuss issues surrounding the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mahommed.

The meeting was convened by Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres, and held at the offices of the Human Rights Commission in Wellington.

We agree that New Zealand’s dramatically increased diversity of cultures and faiths raises new challenges for the media and the New Zealand community.

We believe that it was groundbreaking for this range of people to meet to discuss this issue.

The meeting affirmed without dissent the importance of freedom of the media.

Equally, such freedom is not absolute, and comes with responsibilities.

These include:

• sensitivity to diverse cultures and beliefs, and recognition of the diversity within cultures and beliefs

• responsibility to inform the community about diverse cultures and beliefs

• provide dialogue and channels of communication between the media and faith communities

The meeting acknowledged that the media has to make difficult calls on such issues on a daily basis and these need to be considered in an international context of conflict.

It was agreed there is a need for continuing public discussion on the issues raised – especially beyond the organisations and groups represented at the meeting.

Recommended action:

• The Human Rights Commission to facilitate further discussion, in consultation with the media, faith communities and educators

• The NZ Journalists Training Organisation should address training issues that arise from this debate

• A directory of Muslim spokespeople to be compiled and made available to the media to facilitate a better flow of information.

The meeting affirmed:

a) The media who published the cartoons did not set out to insult or offend, only to inform

b) They apologised for the offence caused

c) They did not resile from the decision to publish, based on the context at that time

Two newspapers which published the cartoons – The Dominion Post, and The Press – gave an undertaking not to publish them again.

List of participants:

• Dave Moskovitz, President, Temple Sinai

• Hanif Ali, Secretary General FIANZ

• Javed Khan, President Federation of Islamic Associations (FIANZ)

• Jim Tucker, Executive Director, NZ Journalists Training Organisation

• Jim Tully, Head of School, Political Sciences & Communication, University of Canterbury

• John Drew, Archbishop, Roman Catholic Church

• Lincoln Gould, Representative, Commonwealth Press Union

• Paul Morris, Professor, Victoria University Religious Studies Programme

• Paul Thompson, Editor, The Press (Christchurch)

• Rick Friesen, Chief Operating Officer, TV3

• Rory Newson, Bureau Chief, TVNZ Wellington

• Sheik Amir, Chair Ulema Board (Board of Scholars) FIANZ

• Sultan Eusoff Office Manager FIANZ

• Terry Brown, Editorial Policy Manager, Radio NZ

• Tim Pankhurst, Editor, Dominion Post

Human Rights Commission representation:

• Joris de Bres Race Relations Commissioner (Meeting Convenor)

• Sam Sefuiva, Manager Race and Ethnic Relations

• Wellington members of DRT and RER teams

• Kaiwhakarite Bill Hamilton

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