EMHRN position on the debate regarding the Cartoons in the Danish Newspaper Jyllandsposten

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) - a regional human rights network with its headquarters in Copenhagen – has followed with great concern the development of the case regarding the Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed in the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten .
The EMHRN believes that freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential elements of a democratic, pluralist, tolerant and broadminded society based on human rights values. It is applicable not only to information and ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend shock or disturb States or any group of a population. The different religions are not exempt from this rule.

However, as has been pointed out by the European Court of Human Rights on several occasions, whoever exercises the freedom of expression has duties and responsibilities in relation to the rights of others, not only as regards the content of the expression, but also as regards the immediate context and broader social, cultural and political context in which it is used.

In this context, the publication, first in the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten and subsequently in other European newspapers, of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed could be seen by a great part of the Muslim world as an unjustified aggression. The fact that the cartoons among others things identified Islam with terrorism can only increase the xenophobia and racism that these populations are already victims of in Europe. Furthermore, this kind of image contributes to discrediting entire countries and their populations.

The EMHRN is also deeply concerned about the way the case of the Cartoons has developed in many parts of the Arab region. It strongly condemns all violent actions in the past days infringing the right to peaceful expression of one’s opinion. It wishes to emphasize that in most of the countries in question the right to freedom of expression, to assembly and to association or to freely exercise one’s belief are regularly violated.

The EMHRN believes that open-minded, sensitive and transparent dialogue between concerned parties is the best way to avoid misinformation, misunderstandings and hurting the feelings of others.

The EMHRN strongly opposes any attempts by regimes as well as by radical groups in the North and the South to misuse the feelings of many people to create barriers and clashes between them where these do not exist. It also opposes attempts in Europe and in the Arab region to describe the current situation as one of cultural clashes between people.

The EMHRN wishes to recall the commitments of many states concerned by the actual case to respect freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion, both individually and together with other members of the same group, without any discrimination on grounds of race, nationality, language, religion or sex; and to promote tolerance between different groups in society and combat manifestations of intolerance, racism and xenophobia (Cf Barcelona Declaration of 27-28 November 1995 reconfirmed by Head of States in Barcelona November 2005)

The EMHRN believes the majority of the people in the EuroMed region aspire to these values and to a life in dignity and in respect of the other people’s rights and beliefs

For more information, please contact:

Marc Schade-Poulsen
EMHRN Executive Director
Tel +45 32 64 17 10


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