Newspapers take up cause of freedom of speech

3rd February 2006, Comments 0 comments

3 February 2006, BRUSSELS — The controversy over the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed infected Belgian newspapers as many ran editorials on the issue on Friday and one of them published the original cartoons.

3 February 2006

BRUSSELS — The controversy over the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed infected Belgian newspapers as many ran editorials on the issue on Friday and one of them published the original cartoons.

The newspapers of the VUM group, 'De Standaard', Het Nieuwsblad' and 'Het Volk' all devoted their front pages to the issue.

Het Nieuwsblad headlined with 'Right to satire' and published a cartoon with Mohammed in a burka with the title: "No more pictures of Mohammed". 

It also published a 'connect-the-dots' version of the Danish cartoon in which Mohammad is depicted as a terrorist with a bomb as a turban.

Its sister newspaper Het Volk headlined with 'Free speech is part of democracy'.

De Standaard ran a series of photos as its front page with a question eluding to how much respect should be shown to a religion that doesn't show respect for the opinions of others.

The newspaper also published the original Danish cartoons that have sparked massive protests across much of the Muslim world in recent days.

The paper said it published the cartoons because the values of democracy and western thinking had been placed up for discussion and the editorial department wanted to underline how important these principles were.

Editor-in-chief Peter Vandermeersch said living in a tolerant society is not easy. The cartoons might be shocking, but Muslim anger will not result in the right to a ban on freedom of speech.

For the Francophone newspaper 'La Libre', however, there must be respect for freedom of speech, but also respect for the religions of other people. It said freedom of speech must be used reasonably which is why it decided against publishing the cartoons.

"Reasonability must triumph over the Danish provocation, but also over Muslim hysteria," the newspaper said, warning also that a clash of civilisations had emerged.

Nevertheless, the newspaper did however place a connect-the-dots cartoon on its front page, similar to that of Het Nieuwsblad.

Flemish daily newspaper 'De Morgen' said: "We are all Danes if it comes down to a defence of the freedom of opinion and the freedom of the press". 

The newspaper said it should be possible to laugh with Mohammed, as it is with Jesus or the Jews, stressing that the discussion was no longer a battle between newspapers and radical hotheads.

"This goes to the core of the workings of our democracy. It is about the freedom with which an opinion can be expressed that riles fundamentalists," editorialist Bart Eeckhout wrote.

However, Eeckhout also wrote that fortunately, there is also a tolerant Islam and that this should become the Islam of the future.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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