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Appeal for calm, dialogue on Prophet caricatures

UPDATE - INTERNATIONAL

2 February 2006

RSF appeals for calm and dialogue on Prophet caricatures

SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris

**Updates IFEX alerts of 2 and 1 February and 26 January 2006 and 15 November 2005**

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is an RSF press release:

Appeal for calm and dialogue on Prophet caricatures

Reporters Without Borders has appealed for calm and reason as the controversy over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed moved in disturbing new directions: "While we understand that many Muslims have been shocked by these caricatures, as Islam forbids any physical representation of the Prophet, there is no justification for calls for violence or threats of any kind."

The press freedom organisation added: "We need to examine this case for what it is. The newspapers that published these cartoons are all in countries in which religion belongs to the private domain. In this tradition, religious freedom goes hand in hand with freedom of expression, which includes the right to make fun of beliefs one does not share. One must also bear in mind that the press is independent of the government in these countries. The views and editorial decisions of individual news media are just their own. They do not speak for their governments or their fellow citizens."

Reporters Without Borders appeals to political and religious leaders in the Muslim countries and to the Arab press to do everything possible to calm people down, so as to be able to start a debate about how we all perceive each other. Similarly, the organisation calls on everyone in the West to concentrate on defusing tension and avoid what could be seen as unnecessary provocations. How are we to reconcile freedom of expression - which many perceive as an overriding need, wherever they live - and respect for each individual's deepest convictions?

Let us hope that the controversy about these cartoons will help us find an answer to this difficult question. Reporters Without Borders will do its best to foster a debate among all those - hopefully the majority - who prefer dialogue to confrontation.

ENDS

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