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The 'cartoon' controversy: The need for respect within freedom

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For more content, see Security and Human Rights.

What had started in 2005 as an intra-cultural tongue-in-cheek provocation by a Danish newspaper on the subject of the Prophet Mohammed has since early 2006 become an inter-cultural clash on a horrifying scale. This clash has already claimed lives, and mobilised mass demonstrations and even some governments against a perceived collective Danish, or European, desire to humiliate the whole of Islam.

A year later, we grow conscious of the fact that the crisis did not bring a symmetrical rapprochement between the standards of the seeming protagonists. While the mainline free press worldwide has striven to improve its self-regulatory practice by adding the obligation for increased cultural sensitivity, we have seen many lawsuits against caricaturists or writers for incitement, allegedly committed by depictions of religious subjects. In several countries, including Russia, Belarus and Azerbaijan, post-scandal procedures against editors who published the caricatures only prove this point.

In this article, Miklós Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, will recall what actually happened, and will offer practical comments on his Office's tasks in preserving freedom while helping the growth of cultural understanding throughout the OSCE area.

Affiliations: 1: Security and Co-operation in Europe


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