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Press Criticise Arab Pressure on Danish Newspaper

World's Press Criticises Arab Pressure on Danish Newspaper

The World Association of Newspapers today (15 November) called on the summit meeting of the Islamic Conference in December to drop from its agenda an item concerning caricatures of Mohammed that were published in a Danish newspaper.

The WAN Board, meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, defended the right of Jyllands-Posten to exercise its rights to freedom of expression by publishing the cartoons, which caused an uproar in Muslim communities in Denmark and elsewhere.

In a resolution, the WAN Board said: "The World Association of Newspapers calls on Islamic nations to respect freedom of expression and to drop its protests against the publication of the caricatures in Denmark."

The full resolution said:

"The World Association of Newspapers calls on the summit meeting of the Islamic Conference in December to drop from its agenda an item concerning caricatures of Mohammed that were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

"The WAN Board, meeting in Copenhagen today, 14 November, defends the right of Jyllands-Posten to exercise its rights to freedom of expression with regard to Islam or any other religion, particularly when the religion is an essential element of the global political debate.

"Jyllands-Posten had invited cartoonists to submit drawings of the prophet Mohammed after an author complained that nobody dared illustrate his book on Mohammed. The newspaper published 12 cartoons in September, calling them a test of whether fear of Islamic retribution had begun to limit freedom of expression in Denmark.

"The cartoons caused an uproar in Muslim communities in Denmark and abroad. Eleven ambassadors from Islamic countries wrote a letter to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmusssen in October to say they were offended by the caricatures and demanded an official apology from the newspaper.

"Rasmussen replied, "Freedom of expression is the very foundation of Danish democracy ... (and) the Danish government has no means of influencing the press."

"The WAN Board deplores the pressure Arab governments have put on the Danish government to force the newspaper to apologize for the caricatures, and it commends Prime Minister Rasmussen for defending freedom of expression and for his refusal to try to influence the newspaper.

"An Egyptian diplomat said earlier this month that the issue would be on the agenda for the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit meeting in Mecca in December.

"While WAN respects all religious sensibilities, including those promoted by Islamic governments, it calls on the Islamic Conference to drop the item on the caricatures, if it is indeed on the agenda. It also deplores the lack of understanding by Arab governments that the separation of government and the press is a foundation of freedom of expression. An intergovernmental meeting is an inappropriate forum for discussing the content of newspapers.

"The World Association of Newspapers calls on Islamic nations to respect freedom of expression and to drop its protests against the publication of the caricatures in Denmark."

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom world-wide. It represents 18,000 newspapers; its membership includes 72 national newspaper associations, individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 11 news agencies and nine regional and world-wide press groups.

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