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Experts call for dialogue on cartoon controversy

UN human rights experts call for dialogue in wake of cartoon controversy

Three independent United Nations human rights experts have strongly deplored the recent controversial depictions of the Prophet Muhammad as well as the violent reactions that ensued while urging all to come together in a spirit of dialogue.

This view was expressed in statement released in Geneva late Wednesday that was endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diene; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, and the Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ambeyi Ligabo. They are all unpaid experts serving in their personal capacity.

“The special rapporteurs strongly deplore the depictions of the Prophet Muhammad and are distressed by the grave offence they have caused to the members of the Muslim community,” the statement said.

Voicing equal concern about the reactions that followed the publications, they strongly condemned “death threats against journalists and intimidation of the media as well as the loss of lives, threats and other forms of violence that have occurred over the past few days, often directed at people with no responsibility for, or control over, the publications.”

The Special Rapporteurs urged all parties to refrain from any form of violence and to avoid fuelling hatred. They also encouraged States to promote the interrelated and indivisible nature of human rights and freedoms and to advocate the use of legal remedies as well as the pursuance of a peaceful dialogue on matters which go to the heart of all multicultural societies.

The experts also offered a detailed defense of press freedom. “Peaceful expression of opinions and ideas, either orally, through the press or other media, should always be tolerated. The press must enjoy large editorial freedom to promote a free flow of news and information, within and across national borders, thus providing an arena for debate and dialogue.”

At the same time, they emphasized that “the use of stereotypes and labeling that insult deep-rooted religious feelings do not contribute to the creation of an environment conducive to constructive and peaceful dialogue among different communities.”

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