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Questions Raised over Broadcasting Standards

Wednesday 22 February, 2005

Questions Raised over Broadcasting Standards and Religious Tolerance

Caritas, the Catholic Agency for Justice Peace and Development supports comments made by the Race Relations Commissioner this morning to Radio New Zealand which questioned whether current broadcasting standards are strong enough to deal with religion.

Caritas research and advocacy officer Lisa Beech said the recent controversies over the publication of cartoons offensive to Muslim people and the South Park episode offensive to Catholics screening tonight, appear to show that existing broadcasting standards are unable to take into account offence caused to religious communities.

“As Catholics we understand that religious tolerance is an increasingly important aspect of good race relations in New Zealand. As part of the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme and our 2005 Social Justice Week focus on Celebrating Cultural Diversity, we have encouraged Catholics to look within our own communities at issues of cultural diversity and relationships with other faiths.”

Caritas understands that incidents like the attacks on Jewish cemeteries, Islamic mosques and the publication of the cartoons first published in Danish newspapers are matters of race relations and have been an important part of the work of the Race Relations Commissioner and the NZ Diversity Action Programme. “However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to advocate to Catholics the importance of religious tolerance when tolerance is not shown to us,” Lisa Beech said.

Caritas acknowledges there must be a balance between free speech and causing offence. “We are not advocating censorship. But we do not see that the depiction of Mary, or any woman, menstruating is justified in the context of the deep hurt and offence it will cause.”


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