26th Jun 2017

Danish cartoon row renews EU push for media code

  • Frattini says European journalists should use freedom of expression responsibly (Photo: European Commission)

European vice-commissioner Franco Frattini has said media should sign up to a voluntary code of conduct on reporting on Islam and other religions, in a bid to avoid future Danish cartoon-type disputes.

In an interview with UK daily The Telegraph on Thursday (9 February), Mr Frattini argued that the cartoons in Danish paper Jyllands-Posten "humiliated" millions of muslims.

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He said journalists and media chiefs should be aware of their responsibility when exercising their right of freedom of expression, and that they should voluntarily agree to self-regulation in cases where sensitive religious issues are involved.

The European Commission is planning to discuss details of such a code of conduct with press organisations and major media outlets in the coming months.

According to Mr Frattini, by agreeing to a charter "the press will give the muslim world the message: we are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression, we can and we are ready to self-regulate that right."

While the code of conduct would not offer a "privileged" status to any faith, it would acknowledge the importance of respecting religious sensitivities, the vice-commissioner explained, according to the Telegraph.

The idea of voluntary media rules, drawn up by the European Commission and media representatives, has been on the table for months.

But while earlier it was mainly associated with efforts to prevent radicalization of youth, possibly leading to terrorist activities across the continent, it has been recently brought back under the spotlight as an instrument to avoid another outbreak of protests by religious communities offended by media content.

Protests go on

Meanwhile, tensions linked to the Danish cartoons row continue.

French president Jacques Chirac on Wednesday said the illustrations were "overt provocations" that should be "avoided," while a French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo reprinted all 12 Danish cartoons plus some of its own.

The cartoons have been so far published in 20 countries.

Washington has also entered the dispute, with foreign minister Condoleezza Rice saying "I have no doubt that Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and have used this for their own purposes. The world ought to call them on it."

She reacted to popular protests over the controversial illustrations in Tehran and Damascus over the past few days.

In Tehran, protesters attacked the British embassy with stones, even though the UK press has refrained from publishing the material, writes the Guardian.

Ten people have so far died in demonstrations against the cartoons in Afghanistan.

There have also been protests in Lebanon, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Gaza.

Last night, Muslim hackers broke into some 600 Danish websites and posted death threats.

Security and defence to top EU summit

Pressure is mounting for social media platforms to remove any online content deemed to incite terrorism. Draft conclusions, seen by EUobserver, have made the issue a top priority in leaders' talks next week.

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