Chirac slams media for Mohammed cartoons

8th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 8, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday accused newspapers printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed of "provocation," after yet another French publication put the contentious caricatures on its pages.

PARIS, Feb 8, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday accused newspapers printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed of "provocation," after yet another French publication put the contentious caricatures on its pages.

"Anything that can hurt the convictions of another, particularly religious convictions, must be avoided. Freedom of expression must be exercised in a spirit of responsibility," Chirac told his cabinet, according to a government spokesman.

"I condemn all manifest provocation that might dangerously fan passions," he said.

The statements were made after the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo printed all 12 of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed first published by a Danish newspaper in September, as well as a new front-page caricature of its own.

The paper bears the headline "Mohammed stressed out by the fundamentalists" and a cartoon of the prophet with head in hands uttering the words "It's hard to be loved by fools."

In addition to the 12 cartoons that have sparked fury in the Islamic world, it publishes other drawings poking fun at different religions.

Charlie Hebdo said the initial 160,000 copies it had printed were selling so fast Wednesday that it would proceed with another print-run.

Its issue hit newsstands the day after a French court refused to grant an injunction to Islamic organisations that tried to have it banned for inciting racial and religious hatred.

Several other French newspapers, including Le Monde, Liberation and France-Soir, have already printed some of the caricatures in a show of solidarity with the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and as a blow for freedom of expression. Other European publications have done likewise.

France has Europe's biggest Muslim population, estimated at six million of the country's 62 million inhabitants, and Chirac is widely viewed as a sympathetic world leader in many Arab countries, particularly in North Africa.

The French president stressed that his criticism was not an abdication of his country's adherence to freedom of expression but rather a call for the principle not to be abused.

"On the issue of the caricatures and the reactions they have provoked in the Muslim world, I want to say that, if freedom of expression is one of the foundations of the (French) republic, the latter relies also on the values of tolerance and the respect of all beliefs," he said.

Chirac said he "condemned" the violent attacks directed against French, Danish and other European nationals and diplomatic missions in Muslim countries in recent days and noted that "under international law, governments are responsible for the safety of foreign people and property established on their territory."

He also directed his government to be "especially vigilant" as to the safety of French citizens abroad.

Angry Muslim mobs in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere have expressed fury at European representations and cultural offices over the cartoons. In Denmark and France, bomb threats have been made against the offices of newspapers that printed them.

On Wednesday, a team of international observers was forced to pull out of the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron after its offices came under attack from protesters.

A Paris protest by French Muslims is scheduled to take place on Saturday amid tight police security.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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