Satellite Chronicle
February 2006

AFGHANISTAN

03/02/2006 Afghan cleric urges government to join cartoon protests, take action

Text of report in English by Afghan independent Pajhwok news agency website

Faizabad, 3 February: Religious scholars in the northern province of Kunduz have denounced the publication of blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in Finnish and several other European newspapers.

At a meeting in Faizabad, the provincial Ulema Council yesterday condemned the publication of sacrilegious cartoons that projected Islam as a religion preaching terrorism and violence.

Scholars, underlining that there would be action against those responsible, argued that the proliferation of such hate-material was detrimental to interfaith harmony at a time when it was most needed.

One of the cartoons shows the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) wearing a headdress resembling a bomb while another shows him as saying that Heaven is running short of virgins for suicide bombers - an affront that has provoked an outpouring of protest among Muslims.

Mawlawi Faiz Mohammad, the head of the 50-member religious scholars' council, said: "Publishing and reproducing cartoons of the Prophet of God was a brazen insult to Islam and Muslims."

He warned that fanning hostility against Muslims or deliberately belittling their religious beliefs would have serious consequences for the world at large.

He asked the Afghan government to take action and join the protest of other Muslim countries against this contemptible move.

President Hamid Karzai was one of the first world leaders to lash out at the cartoons as an insult to tens of millions of Muslims.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dr Abdollah Abdollah also hit out at this brainless action, telling the European press to refrain from publishing anti-Islamic propaganda.

"As Muslims, we consider the act an insult to millions of people and condemn it in the strongest of terms," Abdollah told reporters in Kabul.

The cartoons were published in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten paper last September and were reprinted recently in newspapers in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Their publication has provoked protests across the Muslim world.

Source: Pajhwok Afghan News website, Kabul, in English 1106 gmt 3 Feb 06

ALGERIA

02/02/2006 Algerian culture minister asks for apology over controversial Danish cartoons

Excerpt from report by Iranian Arabic language television news channel Al-Alam on 2 February

[Presenter] Algerian Culture Minister Khalida Toumi has said that an apology for offending Prophet Muhammad, may God's blessings and peace be upon him, is not enough. She said this in a statement to Al-Alam [television] at of the end of the conference of Arab and Latin American culture ministers in the Algerian capital. Twenty two Arab and 13 Central American countries attended the conference.

[Correspondent - recording] The final statement of the conference expressed the indignation of Arab and Latin American countries regarding what the Danish newspapers had published. It called on the Danish state to address the situation and to make sure that it does not happen again in order to serve dialogue between religions.

[Toumi] There is denunciation and indignation at what happened in the Danish press. We asked for not just an apology, but also for guarantees that something like this does not happen again.

Source: Al-Alam TV, Tehran, in Arabic 1700 gmt 2 Feb 06

AUSTRALIA

03/02/2006 Australia: New community radio service in Arnhem land

Text of press release by Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on 31 January

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has decided to make channel capacity available for a new community radio service in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory.

ACMA has made AM frequencies available for a community radio service at Nhulunbuy (1503 kHz), Yathalamarra (1593 kHz), Elcho Island (1566 kHz), Gapuwiyak (1476 kHz) and Darwin (1530 kHz). Nhulunbuy, Yathalamarra, Elcho Island and Gapuwiyak are located some 600 km east of Darwin.

The decision follows a proposal from the Aboriginal Resource and Development Services Inc (ARDS), an aspirant community radio group wishing to establish a community broadcasting service in the Yolngu Matha language based in Nhulunbuy with translator services across north-east Arnhem Land and Darwin.

ARDS has been operating services on a temporary community broadcasting licence at Nhulunbuy and Darwin since May 2004.

Source: Australian Communications and Media Authority press release, Canberra, in English 31 Jan 06


EGYPT

03/02/2006 Egyptian worshippers protest "insulting" cartoons

Text of report by Egyptian news agency MENA website

Cairo, 3 February: More than a 1,000 worshippers demonstrated in the Al-Azhar Mosque today after Friday prayers in denunciation of the cartoons insulting to the honourable Prophet, peace be upon him, published by a Danish newspaper.

The demonstrators denounced these insulting cartoons and disgraceful behaviour against the honourable Prophet. They stressed their rejection of all kinds of cooperation with the countries that insulted the Prophet, mainly Denmark. They also renewed the call for boycotting the products of Denmark and the other countries that insulted Islam and the Prophet, peace be upon him.

The demonstrators set the Danish flag on fire and raised banners against Denmark saying "Down with Denmark" and "Down with the enemies of Islam". They also raised banners that emphasize that all Muslims stand behind the honourable Prophet and his glorious good deeds.

The demonstrators tried to get out of the Al-Azhar Mosque but the security commanders succeeded in persuading them not to, and to continue their demonstration in the nave of the Al-Azhar Mosque.

Source: MENA news agency website, Cairo, in Arabic 1254 gmt 3 Feb 06

France

03/02/2006 French Muslim leaders "outraged", urge law against "Islamophobia"

Text of report by Catherine Coroller entitled "French Muslims outraged", published by French newspaper Liberation website on 3 February

"I thank the owner of the daily France Soir for his courage, and I salute his decision." The decision saluted by Mohamed Bechari, head of the National Federation of Muslims of France (FNMF) and deputy chairman of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM,) in this way was taken by Raymond Lakah.

On Wednesday [1 February] the owner of France Soir [Raymond Lakah] indeed dismissed Jacques Lefranc, the publication's president and editor, after the daily reproduced in its Wednesday edition the 12 caricatures of Prophet Muhammad published by Danish daily Jyllands-Posten. When this sanction was announced, the FNMF, which had threatened to sue France Soir, changed its mind.

Yesterday's response from French Muslim leaders was unanimous: They were outraged. "In the name of freedom of expression and of the press, the feelings of 1.2 billion Muslims round the world have been insulted," Mohamed Bechari protested.

According to the Muslim representatives of Alsace, this "profanation of the faith of Muslims all over the world" will "jeopardize coexistence and cause a radicalization of opinions". The CFCM's Bureau agrees with this analysis, and goes still further, saying it thinks that "these caricatures seek to create a rift between Islam and the West and to facilitate the advent of a clash of cultures".

For moderate Muslims, who advocate a secular Islam and who combat preconceptions about the religion, the parallel between Muhammad and terrorism is intolerable. "The Prophet founded not a terrorist religion, but on the contrary, a religion of peace," Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris mosque and CFCM chairman, protested. "We attach enormous importance to this image and we will not allow it to be distorted. I myself oppose the extremist forms of Islam; we reject this parallel."

To these Muslims, this business seems like another attack on a community that considers itself ill-treated. "Since 11 September 2001, Muslims have paid a very high price," Bechari said. "I had the feeling Wednesday, when I saw the cartoons reproduced in France Soir, that the efforts made by the Muslim community to integrate had been nullified. You will see some presidential candidates such as [Philippe de] Villiers (chairman of the Movement for France - Liberation editor's note) making this their hobbyhorse for 2007." In order to protect his community against such attacks in the future, the FNMF chairman called for laws to protect against "Islamophobia".

Source: Liberation website, Paris, in French 3 Feb 06

GERMANY

03/02/2006 German interior minister opposes government apology over cartoons

Text of report by German newspaper Die Welt on 3 February

Berlin: Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (Christian Democratic Union [CDU]) has stepped into the row over the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, opposing any governmental apology for their publication by the German press. "Why should the government apologize for something that has occurred in the exercise of press freedom?" Schaeuble asked Die Welt . "If the state interferes there, then this is the first step towards curtailing press freedom." Conversely, the press itself had "to cope itself with what it gets up to."

Sharply criticizing the incitements to violence over the cartoons of Muhammad, the chairman of the Turkish community in Germany, Kenan Kolat, asserted that he could "have nothing to do" with reactions of that kind, even though he empathized with demands that "account must if possible be taken of the Muslims' state of feelings." Rigorously rejecting any "muzzling" of the press, he argued that freedom of expression was "very important." This contrasted with the view of Nadeem Elyas, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, who described the cartoons as a provocation, as they portrayed Muhammad in a "degrading manner." Any kind of protest against them was legitimate, so long as it excluded the threat of violence, Elyas told Die Welt . Muslims would be just as incensed if for example Jesus were to be portrayed in a similar manner, he insisted.

Defending the reproduction of the cartoons, SPD [Social Democratic Party of Germany] media specialist Joerg Taiss argued that, though "religious sensitivities [could] indeed be offended" by them, "in cases of doubt I am in favour of freedom of expression and information, however." Greens caucus manager Volker Beck appealed to Muslims to recognize, value, and defend Germany's freedom of expression, arguing that: "Muslims must tolerate precisely the same criticism and satire as the Christian churches and Jews." The Free Democratic Party [FDP] made a call for moderation: their media policy spokesman Christoph Waitz asserted that: "We welcome all steps and comments that help to mediate in and deescalate this row." Though freedom of the press was a central basic and libertarian right, it was nevertheless subject to limits, in cases where religious feelings were knowingly offended, he added.

Source: Die Welt, Berlin, in German 3 Feb 06

Germany

03/02/2006 German politicians urge "restraint", "consideration" over religion

Text of report by German news agency ddp on 3 February

Berlin: Leading politicians are commenting more and more critically on the controversial cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

Speaking on Bayern 2 Radio on Friday [3 February], Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung (CDU [Christian Democratic Union]) urged restraint: "I think in this situation, too, one should take the feelings of others into consideration, and also religious traditions."

On N24 television, Greens Bundestag Group Chairman Hans-Christian Stroebele pointed out that one should think about the "risks before publishing such caricatures". Stroebele stressed that the results are "terrible reactions by crazy people". He would "not publish such caricatures", Stroebele said. However, he would "struggle for being able to do this".

Klaus Uwe Benneter, legal adviser of the SPD [Social Democratic Party of Germany] Bundestag Group, said on N-TV television that those who have religious feelings must know "that in our country it is primarily the freedom of opinion and of art that is valid". However, "everybody is called upon to take the religious feelings of others into consideration".

Harsh criticism was voiced by Bernd Schmidbauer (CDU), the government's former intelligence service coordinator. The member of the Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee said on N24 that "we cannot tolerate blasphemy, regardless in which religion". He rejected the "cry" for freedom of the press. The press must exercise restraint and show tolerance towards all religious communities, he added.

Source: ddp news agency, Berlin, in German 1022 gmt 3 Feb 06

Radio, Budapest, in Hungarian 1100 gmt 3 Feb 06

INDONESIA

02/02/2006 Indonesia broadcast laws inhibit media freedom, watchdog warns

Text of International Federation of Journalists press release on 2 February

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has criticized four new public service broadcasting regulations as a tool that will impinge upon the public's right to freedom of information in Indonesia.

The new rules will come into effect on 6 February, two months after the government agreed to a postponement due to media outcry.

Based upon the Broadcasting Law of 2002, the regulations represent an attempt to install a sense of order in Indonesia's media industry, which encompasses over 100 television and radio stations that have operated without official control since the fall of Suharto.

The regulations deal with monitoring programmes, allocating frequencies and licensing broadcasting stations. However, the crucial point of controversy is the fact that the regulations will severely restrict foreign broadcast content, having a detrimental impact upon media freedom by limiting news and information sources.

IFJ's affiliate in Indonesia, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), insists that the law should be abolished and emphasizes the value of foreign news and current affairs programs to Indonesian journalists. The president of AJI, Heru Hendratmoko, said: "Broadcasting journalists in Indonesia also have a benefit from foreign broadcasting because they can learn much from their colleagues abroad about how to produce news material, gathering information and make a packaging as broadcast news."

Indonesia has previously broadcast a number of foreign news programmes that include BBC, the Voice of America and Deutsche Welle. There are fears that soon millions of Indonesians will no longer have access to alternative sources of information.

IFJ denounces the new regulations as an attempt to inhibit the freedom of the media and control information. The president of IFJ, Christopher Warren, said: "We are appalled at new regulations limiting the broadcast of foreign programmes. It is essential that the Indonesian public have access to a variety of media perspectives, and we implore the Indonesian government to respect the public's right to freedom of information."

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries

Source: International Federation of Journalists press release, Brussels, in English 2 Feb 06

03/02/2006 RSF watchdog calls on Indonesia not to ban foreign relays

Text of press release by Paris-based organization Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) on 3 February

Reporters Without Borders is very concerned at the determination of Information and Communication Minister Sofyan Djalil to adopt a series of decrees that will ban Indonesian TV and radio from broadcasting foreign programmes.

These new regulations, due to come into force on 6 February 2006, would also give the government the power to licence radio and television.

It is particularly aimed at radio programmes in Indonesian on the BBC World Service, put out by around 80 FM radios, and TV broadcasts by Voice of America, which are relayed by several Indonesian stations.

"These decrees mark an evident setback for press freedom in Indonesia," the worldwide press freedom organization said. "Nothing can justify depriving millions of Indonesians from programmes the quality of which is rarely contested."

"In a region where press freedom is too often trampled underfoot, the Jakarta government should protect rather than obstruct it. We strongly urge the government not to go ahead with these decrees," it said.

The information minister announced to legislators on 30 January 2006 that the decrees would come into force on 6 February, saying "this regulation will mean avoiding anarchy in the broadcast industry". The previous week he announced that programmes produced by foreign media could be broadcast as long as they were edited in advance.

Contradictory official statements have successively suggested that all foreign programmes would be banned then that programmes could be put out, but never live.

"This will turn the media into the mouthpiece of the government", said one member of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI), who saw the move as a return to the dictatorial methods of the Suharto era. He was also concerned that the decrees will remove the power to grant licences from the KPI, a role that it has been carrying out under the broadcast law adopted in 2002. The KPI says it will take the case to the Supreme Court.

"The proposed regularization constitutes a violation of the 2002 law which set out quotas on foreign media broadcasts and not a complete ban on them," said Sinansari Ecip, vice-president of the KPI.

A complete ban on foreign programmes could deal a fatal blow to some foreign media, particularly the Indonesian service of the BBC that employs around 40 people. The BBC programmes, available to Indonesians since the fall of Suharto, are believed to attract more than 8 million listeners.

Indonesian TV and radio also put out programmes from Radio Australia, Deutsche Welle and Radio Hilversum [Radio Netherlands], in the Netherlands.

Source: Reporters Sans Frontieres press release, Paris, in English 3 Feb 06

INTERNATIONAL ORGS

03/02/2006 Organization of Islamic Conference head discusses meeting on cartoons, boycott

Excerpt from recorded telephone interview with Organization of the Islamic Conference Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanouglu by Adil Abd-al-Tawab, broadcast by Egyptian radio on 3 February

[Abd-al-Tawab] Dr Ekmeleddin Ihsanouglu, the secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC], the insult against the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, peace be upon him, has started to move from Copenhagen and Oslo to many European capitals. First of all, what have you done, as an organization to prevent the spread of this infection?

[Ihsanouglu] In fact, since the first day, we have been working on several levels. These cartoons were first published on 30 September. Since then, we have acted on many levels. I wrote a letter to the Danish Prime Minister [ Anders Fogh Rasmussen]. We asked the ambassadors of the Islamic countries in Geneva and New York to raise the issue at the UN. The commissioner for human rights in Geneva has acknowledged the importance of the issue and sent an inquiry to the prime minister of Denmark, and there were other political contacts at the level of member countries, in addition to a resolution by the [OIC] summit. I also have a number of statements in this regard, which you can find on the organization's webpage on the internet. [Passage omitted]

I would like to say that the main point these newspapers are depending on with their republication of these cartoons is that, they say, that they siding with other papers in defence of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, because prevention of the publication of these cartoons is an assault on freedom of expression and freedom of the press. This is basically wrong because our defence of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the sanctity of prophets has nothing to do with freedom of expression, but we act out of the defence of sanctities and to remind western newspapers that every freedom should be accompanied by responsibility, that they should abide by this responsibility and that there is no absolute freedom. We remind them that they do not publish similar cartoons of their religious sanctities, their heads of state, kings or queens, the Pope or Jews and Semitism. How then can they publish this and consider it permissible for them. This is the basic fallacy, which the western press commits.

[Abd-al-Tawab] You say that you have written letters, issued statements and made contacts, but concerning this issue, which is greater than all of this; do not you think that the issue requires the convocation of an extraordinary summit for Islamic countries?

[Ihsanouglu] I received an invitation from the foreign minister of Iran to hold an extraordinary ministerial conference, for the foreign ministers of Islamic countries. I am conducting contacts with the representatives of the member countries of our organization and we will exert our efforts in this regard.

[Abd-al-Tawab] Has the time of the meeting been determined?

[Ihsanouglu] Not yet. As I said to you, the foreign minister of Iran contacted me and requested the convocation of an extraordinary conference and I will contact the representatives of the countries and the concerned authorities to discuss the possibility of holding this meeting.

[Abd-al-Tawab] If this meeting is held, will it be possible to hold an extraordinary summit?

[Ihsanouglu] We have first to discuss the issue on the ministerial level. I believe that this problem should be solved quickly and I think that the EU and European countries realize the importance of the issue, and we should clarify the issue from our own side. [Passage omitted]

On this occasion, I would like to urge public opinion to resort to wisdom and peaceful means, and not to carry out any acts contrary to the tolerance of Islam and rational quiet methods. Everything can be expressed in a democratic and civilized way that befits the civilization of Islam and the tolerant values of Islam.

[Abd-al-Tawab] You are calling for resorting to wisdom and peaceful means in dealing with this issue. Is the boycott of some Danish products the best way at the moment?

[Ihsanouglu] I do not want to comment on this, but I say that this is an emotional issue that concerns each Muslim and that he can take his own decision in the way that he believes that it is in the interest of Islam.

Source: Voice of the Arabs, Cairo, in Arabic 0613 gmt 3 Feb 06

ITALY

03/02/2006 Italian ex-editor-in-chief defends Muslims in cartoon dispute

Text of commentary by former Corriere della Sera Editor-in-Chief Piero Ottone entitled "The Danes and the prophet", published by Italian newspaper La Repubblica on 3 February

I like Denmark very much, for both public and private reasons, but in the fierce dispute that has been raging between the Danes and the Muslims over recent days, I have to confess to siding with Muhammad.

It is a serious matter. A large-circulation Danish daily, the Jyllands Posten, has published satirical cartoons about Muhammad. It will be as well to cite the fact that the Danes are blessed with a sense of humour and like joking about everything, commencing with themselves. But the Muslims, whose sense of humour is undoubtedly different, have taken umbrage.

Who is right? The journalists are siding with the Danish daily and extolling the freedom of the press; a sacred principle for all of us, and, for my own part, I obviously have no hesitation in taking my place in the front line in its defence. In the name of freedom, the media must be free to report all the news, even the news that makes life difficult for the people in power. They must be free to probe behind the scenes of events. Nor is that all: Freedom of opinion must be respected as well, whether welcomed or otherwise by whoever happens to be in power. Watergate is the most famous example of recent years. In Italy, too, we have a precedent or two to be proud of.

But press freedom does not mean the right to write whatever one likes, regardless. There are limits to press freedom as well, and not just the obvious constraint that the news published must be true. There are limits dictated by good taste, by a sense of proportion, and by feelings of humanity. So had I been the editor-in-chief of the Jyllands Posten, I would not have published the famous cartoons on Muhammad. The truth of one religion as opposed to another was not at stake there. All they did was ridicule what others regard as sacred.

Why offend their sensibilities? I do not believe in Muhammad, but they (the Muslims) do: Why make a laughing stock of them? The reasoned confutation of one religion as opposed to another is legitimate; condemning fundamentalism is legitimate, expedient and advisable. A cartoon is something else.

When it was up to me to take decisions, I had no misgivings about publishing an article by a philosopher confuting revealed truth, and I had no hesitation about criticizing a pronouncement by the Pope, if it struck me as right to do so. However, if a caricaturist brought me a cartoon showing Christ on the cross, I refused to print it, out of respect for believers.

So I am sorry about my Danish friends. I like them, and they have a lot of qualities, but I am not on their side in this instance.

Source: La Repubblica, Rome, in Italian 3 Feb 06

JORDAN

02/02/2006 Jordanian editor apologizes for publishing cartoons

"I wish to express to you all my deepest regrets and heartfelt remorse for the grave error that we in the Shihan newspaper unintentionally committed while zealously defending our religion and our prophet, Muhammad, may God's peace and blessings be upon him. Our publication was but an effort to reflect the magnitude of the ill-reputed Danish newspaper's insult to our feelings. We published some of the cartoons in the form of a document meant to support a report that was carried on the same page about the Danish newspaper and the anti-Islam wave. Our report clearly showed that we have entrenched ourselves alongside those defending our true religion and prophet, Muhammad, may God's peace and blessings be upon him," Jordanian news agency Petra-JNA website reported Shihan weekly's Chief Editor Jihad al-Mumani as saying on his behalf and on behalf of the newspaper at 1848 gmt on 2 February.

The letter closes by asking God for forgiveness.

At 1915 gmt, Petra reports that the Jordan Press Association's Council issued a statement "condemning Shihan's publication of despicable cartoons that are disrespectful of the person of the noble Prophet Muhammad, God's peace and blessings be upon him", as well as the article written by Jihad al-Mumani under the title "Muslims of the World, Be Reasonable".

In its statement, the council "reaffirms its firm condemnation and categorical rejection of everything that was published in the paper on this matter" and warns of the "consequences of further insults" to the prophet and the principles of Islam. The statement also calls for distinguishing between the freedom of speech the council is keen on spreading and disrespect for religions and prophets without exception.

At 1916 gmt, the agency reports that the Jordan Press Association's Council has decided to "refer colleague Jihad al-Mumani, editor in chief of the Shihan newspaper, to the disciplinary board".

At 2002 gmt, Petra quotes Ibrahim Izz-al-Din, chairman of the Higher Media Council, as saying that the cartoons Shihan published "generate extreme condemnation and even more extreme astonishment because one cannot imagine such a clear disregard for the feelings of Arabs and Muslims by an Arab newspaper". He goes on to say that journalists must observe certain principles despite their freedom of speech, and describes the matter as an isolated incident.

Source: Petra-JNA website, Amman, in Arabic 1848 gmt 2 Feb 06

KUWAIT

03/02/2006 Arab ambassadors discuss "blasphemous" cartoon with officials in Paris

Excerpt from report headlined "Kuwait leads delegation to discuss caricature crisis with French officials", carried in English by Kuwaiti news agency Kuna website

Paris, 3 February: Kuwaiti Ambassador to France, Ahmad Al-Ibrahim, led a delegation of Arab Ambassadors to the French Foreign Ministry late Thursday [2 February] to express the Arab point of view on the growing controversy surrounding the blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that appeared in a newspaper here Wednesday night and to hear the official French side of this story.

All 22 Arab countries, plus the Arab League, were part of the delegation which Al-Ibrahim headed in his capacity as Deputy Dean of the Arab Ambassadors Council in France. The French were represented at a high level, including Pierre Villemont, the Director of the Office of Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, and several members of the North Africa and Middle East Department.

In an exclusive interview, Al-Ibrahim told Kuna that the French officials had affirmed their government's position which was "far removed" from the stance indicated in the "France Soir" newspaper and the insulting portrayal of the Prophet reproduced there from a Danish newspaper which printed similar items some weeks ago.

The French side said the publication of a dozen caricatures of the Prophet was "irresponsible."

"They affirmed the freedom of the press but also deeply regretted the publication and they said they wanted to pass a political message and said they would take measures and they asked the Ambassadors to pass this political message," the Kuwaiti envoy noted.

Al-Ibrahim said he thanked the French representatives at the meeting for their positions and explanations and he told them he too worried about how freedom of the press could be exploited for other reasons. [Passage omitted]

Source: Kuna news agency website, Kuwait, in English 1109 gmt 3 Feb 06

SINGAPORE

03/02/2006 Singapore: Islamic Council says cartoons on Prophet Muhammad "incite hatred"

Excerpt from report by Zakir Hussain headlined: "Caricatures incite hatred, says Muis" carried in English by Singapore newspaper The Straits Times website on 3 February

The decision by several European newspapers to reprint caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad can be seen as inciting hatred, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) said yesterday.

"As Muslims, we too feel unhappy with this event," it said in reply to media queries.

MUIS said that while these newspapers claimed they were testing their right to free expression, their intention appeared to be "to incite Muslim anger unnecessarily".

"The inciting of hatred against a faith of a people is very unfortunate," it said.

Muslims found the caricatures blasphemous. Muslims also disapprove of depictions of God and prophets as such images could encourage idolatry or be misused.

MUIS noted that even as the authorities in Singapore allow freedom of ideas as part of the good life, ridiculing or casting aspersions on a religion is not allowed under the cloak of free expression.

"We are fortunate and deeply appreciative that in Singapore, the media and the community at large have always been mindful of sensitivities... [ellipsis as published] and have helped to promote racial and religious harmony across society."

At Friday prayers across Singapore today, MUIS's sermon will carry this message: Respect for other faith communities is an integral part of the value system of every good Muslim.

The way Muslims in Europe and the Middle East are reacting to the cartoons is to be expected, given the sensitivities, said Ustaz Mohamad Hasbi Hassan, president of the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association, or Pergas.

"But there are better and more decorous ways to deal with the issue, like through diplomacy," he said.

Ustaz Mohammed Suhaimi Mohamed Fauzi, executive imam at the Al-Istighfar Mosque in Pasir Ris, blamed the acts on "people who do not respect other religions".

He said: "I am disappointed, but we should not be agitated. We should be patient and not let what happened elsewhere disturb harmony here." [passage omitted]

Source: The Straits Times website, Singapore, in English 3 Feb 06

UNITED KINGDOM

02/02/2006 London-based Arab paper responds to cartoon row with its own cartoon

London-based newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi on 2 February publishes a three-frame cartoon on page 19, entitled "Danish Products", reacting to the recent publication by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten of cartoons deemed to be insulting to Prophet Muhammad.

The cartoon's first frame shows an editor holding and crossing out a piece of paper with a Star of David and a swastika on it. The bubble above his head reads: "This is... anti-Semitism." The second frame shows the same editor crossing out a drawing of a black man's head with the speech bubble saying "And this is... racism." The final frame shows the editor pointing to a series of drawings labelled "Cartoons mocking Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him)" with the speech bubble reading: "And this is... freedom of expression."

Source: Al-Quds al-Arabi, London, in Arabic 2 Feb 06

United Kingdom

02/02/2006 UK-based Islamic human rights group decries publication of cartoons

Text of press release by UK-based organization The Islamic Human Rights Commission

IHRC [The Islamic Human Rights Commission] has condemned the decision by newspapers in various countries to reprint the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as indicative of the level of hatred against Muslims in Europe - a necessary prelude to systematic violence.

The initial publication of the caricatures in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten - that inter alia characterizes the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist - was insulting, inciting and deeply distressing to Muslims world-wide. In itself it abused the precepts of free speech in that it demonised a community and insulted what its adherents held dear in a context where that community and its members have little access to media and public pace to respond. In a climate of rising anti-Muslim hatred, such characterisations of Islamic belief as evil and violent simply fan the fires of hatred.

Similar instances of hatred can be found in German newspapers of the 1930s demonising not only Jews but also the religion of Judaism as intrinsically evil. (See IHRC Press Release, 'The Daily Telegraph, the newspaper that taught Britain to Hate' 11 December 2004).

IHRC Chair, Massoud Shadjareh said: "The decision by papers in other countries to reproduce these cartoons, is unprecedented. Anti-Semitism in 1930s Europe - although rife even in the British press, did not simply replicate Nazi propaganda. The level of systematic hatred that the replication of these caricatures evidences is, we fear, now part of an inevitable prologue to systematic violence against Muslims in Europe."

[The Islamic Human Rights Commission's website, www.ihrc.org, says it is an independent, not-for-profit, campaign, research and advocacy organization based in London, UK . It says it fosters links and works in partnership with different organizations from all backgrounds, to campaign for justice for all peoples regardless of their racial, confessional or political background.]

Source: Islamic Human Rights Commission press release, London, in English 2 Feb 06

February 3, 2006: 5:30 PM Eastern Stand Time : New York City

PRESS RELEASE

Imam Feisal and former Archbishop Lord Carey Call for Calm after Offensive Danish Cartoons

(New York., 02/03/06) - A prominent New York City Imam and Chairman of the multi-faith Cordoba Initiative, Feisal Abdul Rauf today spoke for the need for calm amidst the turbulence that has resulted from the publishing of offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Danish newspapers, and their subsequent republishing in the French, German, Italian, and Spanish press.

In their joint statement Lord Carey of Clifton, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Imam Feisal said: In our capacity as Muslim and Christian leaders committed to bridging the divides that separate our communities, and as members of the C-100 Coalition of the World Economic Forum, we are saddened and appalled by the cartoons, and the irresponsible actions of papers in Denmark in publishing them. Moreover, we view their subsequent republishing in various other European newspapers as gratuitous and insensitive.

While we recognize the importance of free speech and agree that religions should not be privileged in this regard, the publishing of such insulting cartoons is expectedly being seen by many around the world as an affront to a world faith. This only deepens the suspicion between the West and the Muslim world. At a time when the need for understanding has never been greater, it is sad to see some participate in willful fomentation while others tirelessly advocate for mutual respect and compassion.

In the aftermath of the commotion, we call for calm and peace, as it is firmly our belief that such actions only further prove the need to deepen the dialogue between our faiths and cultures.

Imam Feisal is the Chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, whose mission is to heal the relationship between The Muslim World and America. Lord Carey Clifton is the former Archbishop of Canterbury and the current co-chair C-100 Coalition of World Economic Forum whose mission it is to promote understanding and dialogue between the Western and Islamic worlds

CONTACT: Daisy Khan, Executive Director, American Society for Muslim Advancement at 212 362 2242 or 201 868 4060, E-Mail: daisy@asmasociety.org

ASMA Society, 175 East 96th street, Suite 21T, NYC 10128

BELGIUM

05/02/2006 Thousands march in Belgium over Muhammad cartoons

Excerpt from report by Belgian RTBF radio on 5 February

In the context of the anger to which cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad have given rise, about 4,000 people demonstrated in Brussels this afternoon. The demonstration itself passed off without incident, but there were some disturbances a little later in the area around the US embassy. [Passage omitted - other headlines] So Brussels, too, has been the scene of a demonstration against the publication of Muhammad cartoons in the press. In response to calls issued by SMS, several hundred people met at about 1600 hours [1500 gmt] near the inner ring-road, and they marched along Chaussee de Louvain to Place Meiser and to the gates of the RTBF [French-language public broadcaster]. During the march, the number of demonstrators increased to some 4,000 people. [Passage omitted - RTBF reporter says the demonstrators shouted slogans including "Don't interfere with my religion" and "Does freedom of speech have to lead to a humiliation of Muslims?"]

Later a group of about 250 people went to the area around the US embassy, where a few incidents broke out - apparently incidents described as slight. This is all that is known for the time being.

Source: RTBF Radio 1, Brussels, in French 1800 gmt 5 Feb 06

CZECH REPUBLIC

03/02/2006 Czech commentary calls for solidarity with Danes over Prophet cartoons

Excerpt from comment "We are all Danes to some extent" by Milan Vodicka published by Czech newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes website on 3 February

Arabs are suffering for their faith - daddy will not have Danish cheese for dinner and the little boy is not allowed to build Lego mosques.

It has again been shown that minor causes have big consequences. A Danish paper has published drawings of Prophet Muhammad and Arabs (who are probably suffering the most of all Muslims) have declared a boycott on everything Danish. They have a feeling that Islam has been ridiculed. However, they are ridiculing it themselves. [Passage omitted]

It is like in a burlesque: armed Palestinians besieged the EU seat in Gaza, Arabs are withdrawing their ambassadors from Copenhagen, Danes are fleeing, the Muslim world is burning flags of Western countries and crowds are shouting "Death to Denmark".

But this is not a burlesque. What we see is a clash of civilizations in a nutshell. When Muslim governments demand that the Danish Government punish the editorial office and apologize, you suddenly realize that they have no idea of how things work in our part of the world. Freedom of speech? What is it? Gods and prophets should not be offended. But this is the past; we have moved forward. And, figuratively speaking, this shift represents the difference between the West and the East.

With hindsight, it is true that the caricature was not very sensitive. But who would this have occurred to - we are thinking in a different way. [Passage omitted]

It is customary that people in the West criticize, disparage, and ridicule authorities. They thus demonstrate their freedom and this also works as an overflow valve. They also do this when they do not mean anything bad at all. Something like this is not customary in the Muslim world, so Muslims do not understand that the Danish newspaper did not want to ridicule Islam. That they interpret it in this way illustrates a neurosis of their entire civilization.

The Islamic world has a sense that it is unsuccessful and is withdrawing into itself with a sentiment of self-pity. Since the war in Iraq, the feeling that everything that the West is doing is part of a big plan for weakening the Muslims has become stronger.

And there is one more thing attached to this. Does not something occur to you when you read that 5,000 Yemeni women marched in the streets of the Yemen's capital, Sanaa, in protest against the caricatures? This resembles controlled demonstrations of the past era. Why not? Islamism is on the rise. Governments must run forward in order to keep pace and not be swept away. Instead of stepping on the brakes, they stand up at the head of crowds in the streets.

Things will calm down. There is no need to get excited or back down apologetically. So, if you are unable to draw caricatures, at least buy some Danish cheese or build something out of Lego today.

Source: Mlada fronta Dnes website, Prague, in Czech 3 Feb 06

FRANCE

05/02/2006 French anti-racist group to sue paper in cartoon row

Excerpt from report by Radio France Internationale on 5 February

[Presenter] The Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples has today announced its decision to lodge a complaint against France Soir [over the publication of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad in the paper]. The MRAP considers that the cartoon published in this French daily newspaper is a racist abuse of freedom of speech. This is what the MRAP's general secretary, Mouloud Aounit, said:

[Aounit] We are lodging a complaint over the publication of one cartoon, in particular the one which is an example of how Muslims are lumped together with terrorism, the one which presents the Prophet with a bomb on his head. Committed as we are to freedom of speech, we judge that there is a limit to this freedom when it is part of the development or the incitement to hatred of all Muslims. [Passage omitted]

Source: Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 1600 gmt 5 Feb 06

France

05/02/2006 French premier urges sense of responsibility in cartoon row

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has said people need to show a sense of responsibility when weighing the freedom of speech against the possibility of offending others.

He made the remarks in an interview broadcast this afternoon by French Europe 1 radio, in which he was asked about his response to the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a number of European newspapers and the anger to which this has given rise in the Islamic world.

The prime minister said the issue of the limits of freedom had been a "difficult" one for centuries. He continued: "And of course we need to defend freedom. At the same time - and this is what the art of living together is all about - at the same time we need to defend respect, respect for others. Humanity begins with the ability to open oneself to others, to recognize one's difference, in a spirit of tolerance. And the president used a word which seems very important to me: freedom, respect, but also responsibility. We are not in just any period, and people don't act in the same way in all eras and in all situations."

He added: "Of course I condemn the demonstrations and this spiral of violence, but: responsibility in what we say and in what we do. We are in a world in which, when people express themselves in Denmark, they are heard everywhere in the Middle East. A few decades ago, the world was not as transparent. So a sense of responsibility needs to - we need to be careful about what offends people, what may shock people. People do not have the same idea of the sacred everywhere in the world. Well, people need to take this into account."

In a separate development, the French news agency AFP, citing police figures, reported that 1,000 people had demonstrated in Paris today at lunchtime to protest against the publication of the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Sources: Europe 1 radio, Paris, in French 1706 gmt 5 Feb 06; French news agency AFP, Paris, in French 1730 gmt 5 Feb 06

05/02/2006 Iran starts broadcasting Al-Kowsar Arabic TV channel

Text of report by Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) website

Tehran, 5 February: Concurrent to the days marking the victory of the revolution in Iran and the commemoration of the third Shi'i Imam Husayn, Al-Kowsar international TV network has started to operate.

This TV channel owned by Voice and Vision of Iran [state radio and TV] will broadcast 16 hours of programme in Arabic for those who love pure Islamic teachings in different parts of the world.

In the past 25 years, this TV network has been broadcasting its programmes under the name of Sahar, which according to relevant officials has been considerably popular among its viewers and has been able to take giant strides to promote Shi'i culture and Ahl al-Bayt [the prophet of Islam's household]'s teachings.

At present, Al-Kowsar is working independently. It intends to compete more than the past with the international Arab media, which unfortunately are mostly set up to mar Islamic and human identity. It also aims at taking faster and stronger steps in presenting true Islamic concepts and to reflect the realities of political and social developments in Iran and the world.

As announced by the external services of the Voice and Vision, Al-Kowsar network has been set up to respond to intellectual and cultural needs of international viewers, who want to watch a Shi'i-inspired TV channel. An objective behind setting up this TV channel is to promote true teachings of the Koran and Ahl al-Bayt and to air genuine ideals of the Islamic Revolution.

Al-Kowsar international TV network broadcasts its programmes on Nilesat and Hotbird to the entire world.

Source: ISNA website, Tehran, in Persian 1206 gmt 5 Feb 06

Afghanistan

07/02/2006 Al-Jazeera journalist says Afghan police beat up cameraman

Text of report by Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency

Kandahar, 7 February: The police in Kandahar have beaten an Al-Jazeera cameraman and have taken his camera.

The Al-Jazeera journalist in Afghanistan, Waliollah Shahin, told AIP today: "After the explosion in front of the Kandahar Security Command today, my cameraman, Shams-al-Din, and I arrived to film the scene in line with our profession. But the police brutally beat up our cameraman using the butts of their guns and kicked him. They also took his camera."

He added: "Although his wounds are not obvious, he has been badly beaten and after receiving medicine from a private doctor he is still complaining about the pain."

Shahin said their camera has not yet been returned to them. He said there was other material in it as well.

Waliollah Shahin, who is the Al-Jazeera reporter in Kabul, was arrested along with his cameraman by US troops on 1 January. They were released after being held for a few hours.

Source: Afghan Islamic Press news agency, Peshawar, in Pashto 0823 gmt 7 Feb 06

07/02/2006 Afghan court hears case of private TV accused of airing immoral programmes

Text of report by Afghan independent Tolo TV on 7 February

[Presenter] The case against Afghan TV [a private TV channel in Kabul] has been referred to the national security appeals court of Kabul after a decision by the Media Monitoring Commission. The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism had earlier imposed fine of 50,000 afghanis [1,000 dollars] on Afghan TV for airing immoral programmes.

[Correspondent] A video recording of un-Islamic and immoral songs, recorded from Afghan TV by the Media Monitoring Commission was played during the first court hearing at the national security appeals court of Kabul.

Director of the Afghan TV admitted that the songs were aired on his TV channel, but stressed that they were aired before a recent session of private TV directors.

Ansarollah Hajjizada, head of the Kabul national security appeal court, postponed the court hearing for further investigation into the issue.

Source: Tolo TV, Kabul, in Dari 1330 gmt 7 Feb 06

AZERBAIJAN

07/02/2006 Azeri Christians, Jews condemn Prophet's cartoons

Text of unattributed report by Azerbaijani newspaper Yeni Musavat on 7 February headlined "The cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad are a provocation"

The non-Muslim communities of Azerbaijan have condemned the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad printed in Denmark and other European states.

"Not only does this hurt the feelings of those who profess Islam, this is a deliberate provocation," Father Sergiy, the spokesman for the Baku and Caspian Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, has told APA news agency.

He described the cartoons as an insult and blasphemy and said that the provocation was aimed at stirring up an ethnic and religious conflict.

Semen Ikhiilov, leader of the community of Mountain Jews, told APA that no-one had the right to insult the saints of other religions. "There should be tolerance between faiths," he said, adding that non-Islamic religions have never faced disrespect in Azerbaijan. "Religious tolerance which exists in Azerbaijan can serve as an example to the world. Christians have drawings depicting their saints in Azerbaijan, Christians come to churches to pray. The Jews and Muslims do not depict their saints. We pray directly to God and no-one has the right to hurt religious feelings under the cover of freedom of speech."

He said Islam was a peaceful religion and terrorists were making use of Islam. "No-one has the right to show disrespect for the Prophet Muhammad, one of the most respectable prophets, because of terrorists," he said.

Gennadiy Zelmanovich, leader of the community of European Jews, told APA about his negative attitude to the cartoons of the Prophet. He said that those responsible for printing these cartoons should apologize to the Muslim world.

The head of the Catholic church in Azerbaijan, (?Yan Chapla), told APA that Catholics believe it is unacceptable to print cartoons of saints of any religion or publish insulting stories. He said liberals and atheists were to blame for this.

He said that cartoons of Pope John Paul II had been published in the Italian press and films insulting Jesus Christ had been shown. He stressed that the struggle against these undesirable things should be carried out within the framework of the law. "It is wrong to set fire to embassies and take revenge on individuals," he pointed out.

Source: Yeni Musavat, Baku in Azeri 7 Feb 06 p 12

BANGLADESH

07/02/2006 Bangladesh group thanks UK media for coverage of cartoon protests

Text of report by Bangladeshi newspaper Prothom Alo on 7 February

A number of organizations, particularly the pro-Islamic organizations of Bangladesh, have condemned and protested the publications of the satirical cartoons of the Prophet Hazrat Muhammad in Denmark and some other countries of the European Union. The largely circulated Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons - a dozen of them - on 30 September 2005. Newspapers of various countries of the European Union, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland reprinted the cartoons subsequently.

Printing or publication of images or portraits of the Prophet of Islam are an act of blasphemy as they lead to idolatry. One of the cartoons published in the Jyllands-Posten depicted Prophet Hazrat Muhammad in a turban resembling a bomb. The satirical cartoons in the dailies have hurt the religious sentiment of the God-fearing and devout Muslims of Bangladesh.

Various Bangladeshi organizations deplored the Danish and European dailies which printed or reprinted the cartoons, who are still defending the right to do it in line with freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. Hizb-ut Tahrir has announced a plan to besiege the embassy of the Royal Kingdom of Denmark located in Gulshan, Dhaka after Friday noon congregational prayers on 10 February.

Leaders of the Hizb-ut Tahrir made the announcement at a news conference held in the Paltan office of the organization on Monday [6 February]. The announcement said that the women's branch of the Hizb-ut Tahrir will organize a human-chain in front of the Alliance Francais, Dhaka at 10.30 a.m. the same day. Chief Coordinator Mahiuddin Ahmed and central leaders of the Hizb-ut Tahrir, including Kazi Murshedul Huq, Shaykh Tawfiq, and Mostafa Minhaz, were present at the news conference.

Apart from this, various organizations in press statements condemned and protested the publications of the satirical cartoons of the Prophet Hazrat Muhammad in the newspapers in various European Union countries. They also deplored the governments of these countries for defending the printing or reprinting of the cartoons as being a part of press freedom and the freedom of expression.

These statements said that the freedom of the press must not be absolute. Surely it is conditional with regard to the lofty sentiments of the people. Islam, they said, never allows satire against any other religions or faiths. The cartoons have hurt the sentiments of the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world, the statements said. In this connection, these organizations thanked the Indonesian and Pakistani parliaments, which adopted resolutions condemning the publications of the cartoons of the Prophet.

These organizations urged the government to officially lodge protests with the European countries where these cartoons were printed or reprinted. These organizations also urged the Bangladesh parliament to adopt a condemnation resolution and asked the respective countries to take appropriate measures against the recurrence of such incidents in the future.

The organizations which condemned the publication of the cartoons included Bangladesh Awami Chhatra Parishad, Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Sena, Islamic Front of Bangladesh, Jamia Hossainiya Arjabad [Mirpur], Madrasa Darul Habib Al Islamia, Jamia Ahmadiya Sunniya Aliya, Chittagong.

Meanwhile in a statement, the Ahhmadiya Muslim Association thanked the mass media in the United Kingdom for highlighting the protest and agitation programmes being held in the country against the satirical cartoons of Prophet Hazrat Muhammad published in various European countries.

Source: Prothom Alo, Dhaka, in Bengali 7 Feb 06

CHINA

07/02/2006 Chinese spokesman urges restraint, calm over "cartoon incident"

Text of report by reporters Xu Song and Liao Lei entitled: "Foreign Ministry spokesman comments on the cartoon incident"; carried by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency) Asia-Pacific service

Beijing, 7 February: In response to a question from a reporter, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said on the 7th that the publication of the cartoons by certain media "has violated the principle of mutual respect and coexistence in peace and harmony between different religions and civilizations".

At the same time, he stressed that the safety of diplomatic missions should also be guaranteed based on the relevant international law.

A reporter asked: Lately, some media published cartoons that desecrate the image of Prophet Muhammad of the Islamic religion. What comment does the Chinese side have on this?

Kong Quan said: The publication of the aforementioned cartoons by the media has violated the principle of mutual respect and coexistence in peace and harmony between different religions and civilizations. At the same time, we also maintain that the safety of diplomatic missions ought be guaranteed based on the relevant international law. We hope that all parties concerned would exercise restraint, remain calm, and strengthen exchange of views and dialogue to appropriately handle this incident.

Source: Xinhua news agency, Beijing, in Chinese 0923 gmt 7 Feb 06

IRAN

07/02/2006 Iranian daily holds contest to test "West's freedom of expression"

Text of report by Iranian newspaper Hamshahri website on 7 February

Following an invitation issued by a Danish newspaper to a group of illustrators, a number of caricatures were published on the theme of the desecration of sacred values and effrontery towards the holy Prophet of Islam, and a number of other European newspapers published these illustrations on the pretext of freedom of expression.

The serious question raised by Muslims and international public opinion today is: "Does the West's freedom of expression extend to subjects such as America and Israel's crimes and plundering or an event such as the Holocaust or is this freedom of expression only for the desecration of the sanctities of divine religions?"

Hamshahri newspaper, while keeping its distance from vindictive or irrational conduct, issues an invitation, in turn, calling on the artists of the world to use freedom of expression and to enter their illustrations on the mentioned subjects.

The details of the contest will be published in the newspaper on Monday 24.11.84 [13 February 2006].

Source: Hamshahri, Tehran, in Persian 7 Feb 06

07/02/2006 Iran needs "soldiers" to fight media war - agency chief

Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA website

Tehran, 7 Feb: Managing Director of the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) here Tuesday [7 Feb] referred to the significance of media work in the world of today and said that at present Iran is looking for 'soldiers for soft war'.

Speaking at the ceremony marking the introduction of IRNA Basij (voluntary forces) chief, he added that Iran has made great progress in economic, industrial and military fields but that it needs more manpower in the media sector.

"Basij should make effort to train the soldiers required for soft war and promote the volume of valuable information by launching a specialized movement," he said.

Khademolmelleh pointed to the measures taken on the domestic scene and reiterated the need for media promotion to this end.

"However, this is not sufficient and we should be prepared to counter the West's news invasion," added the official.

He referred to dissemination of valuable and objective-oriented information as the factor of progress in the age of communication and today's modern world.

The IRNA chief stressed, "If we manage to produce and avail more specialized and valuable information to the community, we will succeed."

He underlined that Basij should find a way to produce information of high value, adding that despite the great volume of the information being currently produced, the extent of their value is not known.

Meanwhile, he said, "In the age of communication -- 21st century -- the world conditions have changed on account of the Communication Revolution. Therefore, the tools of invasion have also changed. "The conditions of the present age are identified by objective-oriented news used as bombers. Their information bombs explode in such a way that all of a sudden Iran's president becomes subject to news invasion and bombardment, which by itself marks the explosion of information and news."

He referred to IRNA as a basic embankment of news defence. He noted that there is no doubt that a war known as the soft war is currently underway.

"This is a war of thought and they have targeted our thoughts.

They believe that if they change the thoughts of the youth, they will also influence their attitude," concluded Khademolmelleh.

Source: IRNA website, Tehran, in English 1211 gmt 7 Feb 06

MALAYSIA

06/02/2006 Malaysia: Newspaper duty editor resigns over publication of cartoon

An editor from the Sarawak Tribune had resigned after publishing one of the cartoons that had sparked violent protests across the Muslim world, the Malaysian website Malaysiakini reported on 6 February.

The Sarawak-based newspaper had used one of the controversial cartoons to accompany a foreign news agency report about the violent demonstrations, the website said. The newspaper later published a front-page apology and the duty editor had resigned for the "oversight".

Deputy Internal Security Minister Chia Kwang Chye was reported as saying that the newspaper would be issued a show-cause letter, while its editor-in-chief, Toman Mamora, had been summoned to the state administrative centre to meet with officials from the Internal Security Ministry.

Yap Swee Seng, spokesperson for the Action Against Political Interference in the Media coalition, said the issue should be considered as resolved with the public apology by Sarawak Tribune. He urged that no further action be taken by the ministry.

On the resignation, Yap said: "We don't really know whether the concerned editor has resigned voluntarily. If he did, it is okay but we suspect there might be pressure from the ministry as they have planned to issue a show-cause letter and it holds the power to revoke the paper's licence."

Source: Malaysiakini website, Petaling Jaya, in English 6 Feb 06

07/02/2006 Malaysian minister: Daily deserves "heaviest punishment" over cartoons

Text of report in English by Malaysian news agency Bernama website

Kuching, 7 February: Sarawak Tribune should receive the heaviest punishment once investigations prove that the English daily is guilty of reprinting a news extract on the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad, Information Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Kadir Shaykh Fadzir said.

He said what was surprising was that the established newspaper was not sensitive to current sensitivities especially those related to issues on race, religion and culture.

"I feel that people who play on racial, religious and cultural sentiments, should get the heaviest punishment, there's no room for apology, (they) can't afford to make mistakes," he told reporters after attending a gathering of the ministry staff, here Tuesday [7 February].

Abdul Kadir said the newspaper should be more sensitive with the current situation especially the negative impact as a result of the publication of the caricatures.

The cartoons, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper late last year, and then reprinted in several European newspapers lately angered Muslims, resulting in protests and demonstrations worldwide over the last few days. Islam forbids any depiction of Prophet Muhammad.

On the call by UMNO [United Malays National Organization] Youth Chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein for the Internal Security Ministry to suspend the publishing licence of the newspaper, he said the matter should rest with the Internal Security Ministry to take the necessary action.

Source: Bernama website, Kuala Lumpur, in English, 7 Feb 06

UNITED KINGDOM

07/02/2006 Iran: MP says blocking BBC website was not political

Text of report by Iranian newspaper Aftab-e Yazd website on 7 February

A member of the Majlis Cultural Affairs Commission has spoken about the existence of numerous documents and evidence in support of the option of filtering the BBC [Persian] website. He said: The filtering of the BBC website is not political in any way.

Seyyed Jalal Yahyazadeh, who was speaking in an interview with ILNA (the Iranian Labour News Agency), referred to his follow up investigations about the reasons for the blocking of the BBC website, and said: I have held meetings with the relevant officials and the committee [responsible for the decision], and at these meetings, several pieces of documented evidence were presented to me which showed that during its operation, the said website had committed many offences in relation to the free flow of information.

Source: Aftab-e Yazd website, Tehran, in Persian 7 Feb 06

WEST BANK & GAZA

03/02/2006 West Bank and Gaza: Armed men storm TV offices over unpaid salaries

Text of report by Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds on 3 February

Armed men, who stated that they were from Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, stormed the offices of Palestine Satellite Channel in Al-Irsal area in Ramallah on Thursday [1 February]. The event took place following the decision of PNA [Palestinian National Authority] President Mahmud Abbas "Abu-Mazin" to stop paying the salaries of about 65 employees working at Palestine television, the satellite channel, and the voice of Palestine, and to lay off some of them. This was stated by the employees of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation.

In a statement issued and distributed in front of and inside the prime minister's office prior to the cabinet's weekly session held on Thursday, the employees stated that they were surprised by this decision that was planned by Dr Nabil Sha'th, previous minister of information, and Muhammad al-Wahidi, head of Palestine Television. The employees mentioned that the decision was made because they have other jobs besides their government work, according to the statement. The employees appealed to Prime Minister Ahmad Quray and the influential cabinet ministers to try to stop the arbitrary measure taken against them, according to the statement. They also called for forming a committee to investigate the matter and dismiss those who deserve to be dismissed. The demand was made for a number of reasons, primarily that they support stopping the salaries of employees who are outside the country and are registered as employees of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation but are not asked to report to work. According to the statement, Muhammad al-Wahidi, head of the television, deceived the PNA president and did not inform him of what was taking place at the corporation.

The employees had previously called for developing and rectifying the situation at the broadcasting corporation. They did that on several occasions but received no response. They pointed out that most of the employees whose salaries would be stopped are the most prominent at the broadcasting corporation because they are the qualified employees.

The employees stated that they had to seek employment outside the corporation because their salaries are very low and are not enough to provide the minimum required to live a decent life. This situation forced them to think of working in the various institutions. They also pointed out that the field reporters for the Palestine television and radio do not receive any compensation for their field work.

According to the statement, the employees emphasized that nothing was rectified at the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation and that they could provide official evidence for that. They pointed out that the reform about which some people are talking is nothing more than fighting people in their sustenance.

The employees expressed their extreme dissatisfaction with the decision and affirmed that they would resort to all the legal steps of protest and that they would not keep silent.

On his part, and according to some of the employees against whom the decision was issued, Basim Abu-Sumayyah, head of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, sent a letter to PNA President Mahmud Abbas asking for stopping the decision to freeze the salaries of employees. Abu-Sumayyah pointed out that most of the persons contained in the decision are committed to their work at the corporation in accordance with the rules and regulations.

Source: Al-Quds, Jerusalem, in Arabic 3 Feb 06

Outrage over Prophet Muhammad drawings routed in history, current events

By RAPHAEL SATTER
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, February 2, 2006

For centuries Muslim artists have drawn animals and landscapes, soldiers and sultans. But one subject has long remained taboo the face of Muhammad.

Revered by Muslims as the last prophet sent by God, if he is drawn at all, it is with his face obscured or featureless.

Now, a Danish newspaper's attempt to fill in that blank has Muslims across the globe accusing Europeans of provocation. Experts say the controversy could help fuel the rise of extremist movements in the Middle East.

The controversy began when a children's book writer complained to a Danish newspaper, the Jyllands-Posten, that he could not find an illustrator for his book about Muhammad. The paper asked several cartoonists to come up with their own takes on what Muhammad might have looked like, and published them in Septem-ber.

The drawings were reprinted by France Soir and several other European papers Wednesday to make a point about freedom of speech.

The Quran does not expressly forbid illustrations of Muhammad, but the Is-lamic tradition carries several injunctions against depiction of any human fig-ure, and indeed of any living being at all, for fear that might lead to idolatry and because it suggests man can mimic the creative power of God.

The ban on pictorial representation, never universally followed, began to re-treat as Islam spread into areas beyond the Arab world.

Persian and Turkish miniatures from the 12th century onwards depicted human figures, including that of Muhammad, although his face was always obscured, of-ten by a divine flame.

Full pictures of Muhammad's face "are very, very rare" in the Muslim world, said John Voll, director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. "Virtually all Muslims would not think it appropriate."

The Danish cartoonists not only showed Muhammad's face but added such flour-ishes as a bomb-shaped turban.

Radwan Masmoudi, director of the Center for Study of Islam and Democracy in Burtonsville, Maryland, said that it was the way that the cartoons depicted Muhammad, rather than the act of depiction itself, that was fueling most of the outrage.

"He was portrayed as a terrorist, as somebody who has no moral values," Masmoudi said.

The controversy comes at a time of increased tension between the West and the Muslim world. Resentment has been building over the situation in Israel, the war in Iraq, and the standoff over the Iranian nuclear program.

"These pictures on top of that really constitute an insult to Islam that no Muslim can accept," Masmoudi said.

The decision to reprint the cartoons will only add "fuel on the fire," said Emily Hunt, of the Washington Institute.

Public opinion in the Muslim world risks being radicalized because of a fundamental misunderstanding over Europe's defense of free speech, Hunt said. "It comes across as if the West has deliberately insulted Islam."

This is not the first time that Western depiction of the Muhammad have sparked controversy. In 2002, the American Public Broadcasting Service cut scenes depicting Muhammad from a documentary about Islam following objections from American Muslim groups. In 1997 the American Supreme Court's refusal to re-move a carving of Muhammad from its marble frieze depicting historic lawgivers sparked rioting in the heavily Muslim Indian region of Kashmir

Cartoons Spark Burning of Embassies
Syrians, Angry at Drawings of Prophet Muhammad, Target Danes and Norwegians

By Karl VickWashington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 5, 2006; Page A15
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/04/AR2006020401208.html

ISTANBUL, Feb. 4 -- Outrage among Muslims around the world over cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad again erupted into violence on Saturday, as crowds in Damascus, Syria, set afire the embassies of two countries where newspapers published the images forbidden by Islam.

The embassies of Denmark and Norway were badly damaged by demonstrators shouting "God is Great!" as police fired tear gas and water cannons, news reports said. In the Palestinian territories, protesters burned tires and threw rocks at offices of the European Union, and a leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, was quoted as calling for the death of those responsible for the caricatures.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church added its voice to Western governments condemning publication of the images. "The right to freedom of thought and expression . . . cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers," the Vatican said in a statement.

The controversy showed no signs of abating as newspapers reprinted the cartoons, triggering fresh protests. In the West, each new incident fueled curiosity about the provocative images in question -- a series of 12 cartoons that a Danish newspaper commissioned in September to directly challenge Islam's ban on depicting the prophet. The cartoons not only pictured Muhammad, who Muslims believe carried the word of God from a mountaintop 1,500 years ago; several also lampooned him, with one artist rendering his turban as a bomb.

After Muslims began protesting this past week, newspapers in Germany, France and Norway reprinted the cartoons, calling the issue a matter of free expression. But the Bush administration and other Western governments declared that publication served no purpose except offending the world's 1.1 billion Muslims, many of whom already feel aggrieved. Global surveys taken before the cartoon controversy showed that Muslims overwhelmingly believe the U.S.-led war on terror is in fact a war on Islam.

"It's interesting how our ambassadors in Europe see this issue so differently than ambassadors in Islamic countries," said a European diplomat in Turkey, where reaction to the cartoon flap has been relatively muted. "Those in Europe see it as a free speech issue," he said, while diplomats in Muslim countries are agitated.

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity to share confidential diplomatic traffic. The diplomat quoted a cable from his country's Cairo embassy that read: "I can't de-escalate. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are not something I can sell here if it is in conflict with Islam."

In the United States, major newspapers, including The Washington Post, chose not to reprint the images on grounds they would give offense. In South Africa, the high court barred Sunday papers from reprinting them. CNN International reported that two newspapers in New Zealand did publish the images, but the channel blurred footage of the papers.

"We should have killed all those who offend the prophet and instead here we are, protesting peacefully," Mahmoud Zahar, a leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, was quoted as telling the Italian daily Il Giornale on Saturday, according to the Associated Press. Hamas won control of the Palestinian Authority parliament in elections last month.

The Reuters news agency reported the government of Iran had appointed a committee to explore bans on trade with countries where the cartoons had been published. Last year Iran quietly imposed a similar ban on at least one country, South Korea, that had voted against it at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In Damascus, peaceful protests at the Danish and Norwegian embassies grew violent after demonstrators broke through police lines. Both buildings were empty at the time they were overrun. Denmark warned its citizens to avoid the country.

"The situation for Danes in Syria has developed negatively in the past hours," a Foreign Ministry statement said. Norway also warned its citizens away. That country previously pulled aid workers and diplomats out of the West Bank after protests.

Demonstrations were also reported in Pakistan, Britain, Iraq and Bethlehem in the West Bank. In the West Bank town of Hebron, about 50 Palestinians burned a Danish flag and demanded a boycott of Danish goods, chanting "We will redeem our prophet, Muhammad, with our blood!" they chanted, the AP reported.

There were scattered counter-demonstrations, such as one outside Copenhagen where about 50 right-wing protesters held Danish flags and shouted, "Denmark for Danes!" the AP reported. Italy's ANSA news agency reported that about 50 supporters of the right-wing Northern League offered Danish beer and biscuits to passersby in Milan.

U.S. Says It Also Finds Cartoons of Muhammad Offensive

By JOEL BRINKLEY and IAN FISHER
Published: February 4, 2006
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/04/politics/04mideast.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 The Muslim world erupted in anger on Friday over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in Europe while the Bush administration offered the protesters support, saying of the cartoons, "We find them offensive, and we certainly understand why Muslims would find these images offensive."

Streets in the Palestinian regions and in Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia and Malaysia were filled with demonstrators calling for boycotts of European goods and burning the flag of Denmark, where the cartoons first appeared.

While a huge rally in the Gaza Strip was peaceful and many leaders warned against violence some of the oratory was not.

"We will not accept less than severing the heads of those responsible," one preacher at Al Omari mosque in Gaza told worshipers during Friday Prayer, according to Reuters. Other demonstrators called for amputating the hands of the cartoonists who drew the pictures.

Many Muslims consider it blasphemy to print any image of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, let alone a cartoon that ridicules him.

The set of a dozen cartoons has outraged Muslims as being provocative and anti-Muslim, while many Europeans have defended their publication under the right to free speech.

One cartoon depicts Muhammad with a turban in the shape of a bomb. Another shows him at the gates of heaven, arms raised, saying to men who seem to be suicide bombers, "Stop, stop, we have run out of virgins." A third has devil's horns emerging from his turban. A fourth shows two women who are entirely veiled, with only their eyes showing, and the prophet standing between them with a strip of black cloth covering his eyes, preventing him from seeing.

Since being published in Denmark in September, they have been reprinted in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Hungary, as well as in Jordan. They are also on the Internet. Editors at the papers in France and Jordan were fired.

The United States has been trying to improve its image in the Arab world, badly damaged by the Iraq war and American support for Israel.

The State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, reading the government's statement on the controversy, said, "Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images," which are routinely published in the Arab press, "as anti-Christian images, or any other religious belief." Still, the United States defended the right of the Danish and French newspapers to publish the cartoons. "We vigorously defend the right of individuals to express points of view," Mr. McCormack added.

At the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan also criticized the publication of the cartoons, but urged Muslims to forgive the offense and "move on."

"I am distressed and concerned by this whole affair," he said. "I share the distress of the Muslim friends, who feel that the cartoon offends their religion. I also respect the right of freedom of speech. But of course freedom of speech is never absolute. It entails responsibility and judgment."

For the Bush administration, talking about the uproar represented a delicate balancing act. A central tenet of the administration's foreign policy is the promotion of democracy and human rights, including free speech, in countries where they are lacking. But a core mission of its public diplomacy is to emphasize respect for Islam in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Major American newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, did not publish the caricatures. Representatives said the story could be told effectively without publishing images that many would find offensive.

"Readers were well served by a short story without publishing the cartoon," said Robert Christie, a spokesman for Dow Jones & Company, which owns The Wall Street Journal. "We didn't want to publish anything that can be perceived as inflammatory to our readers' culture when it didn't add anything to the story."

In a midafternoon meeting on Friday, editors at The Chicago Tribune discussed the issue but decided against publishing the cartoons. "We can communicate to our readers what this is about without running it," said James O'Shea, the paper's managing editor.

Most television news executives made similar decisions. On Friday CNN ran a disguised version of a cartoon, and on an NBC News program on Thursday, the camera shot depicted only a fragment of the full cartoon. CBS banned the broadcast of the cartoons across the network, said Kelli Edwards, a spokeswoman for CBS News.

Only ABC showed a cartoon in its entirety, lingering over the image for several seconds during Thursday's evening news broadcast and on "Nightline." "We felt you couldn't really explain to the audience what the controversy was without showing what the controversy was," said Jeffrey Schneider, a spokesman.

In France, where rioting broke out last year among its sizable Muslim population, President Jacques Chirac released a statement on Friday defending free speech but also appealing "to all to show the greatest spirit of responsibility, of respect and of good measure to avoid anything that could hurt other people's beliefs."

In Gaza, a pamphlet released by gunmen at the European Union office threatened harm to "churches." Hamas leaders, showing how their role has changed since their election success last week, quickly and publicly reacted to calm fears of Gaza's small Christian population, only 3,000 people. On Thursday a top Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, visited the only Catholic church in Gaza to condemn any threats against Christians.

"He said he is protecting us not because he is Hamas," said the Rev. Manuel Musallam of the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church, who said he has long and friendly relations with Hamas. "But he is protecting Christians and our institutions as the state of Palestine and as a government."

Washington Area Muslims React With Tempered Anger
Some Say Depiction Overstepped Liberties

By Caryle Murphy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 5, 2006; Page A15
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/04/AR2006020401145.html

Wearing a brown golf cap against the cold drizzle, Rocky Omary stood outside Walima Cafe in Falls Church, where he and about 50 other men of Middle Eastern descent had just watched the Tunisian soccer team take a drubbing from the Nigerians.

That trouncing was bad enough. But Omary had other, more disturbing, insults on his mind: specifically, the recent publication in European newspapers of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist.

"I've been getting a lot of e-mails about it, and I'm distributing them all," said Omary, a Damascus native who sells real estate in Northern Virginia. "There is a limit to freedom. There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Let's have some respect."

A few miles away at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque in Sterling, Zaki Al Barzinji, 16, was equally upset.

"Just because you can say something doesn't mean you should say something," the teenager said. "If somebody showed a picture of the pope with a bomb on his head, that would cause a great public outcry. Nobody would be talking about freedom of speech."

Washington area Muslims say they are closely following the furor in Europe and other parts of the world sparked by the cartoons, which first appeared in Denmark and Norway. In interviews yesterday, they expressed anger and hurt feelings. And although they said they recognized the value of freedom of speech, they said the freedom must be matched with respect and responsibility.

"Technically, you have the right to walk into a crowded theater and yell 'Fire,' " said Uzma Unus, 34, a teacher in Sterling who is also vice president of ADAMS. "But is that responsible?"

Several were critical of the violent reactions of some Muslims in Europe and the Middle East. The better way to respond, they added, is through dialogue and peaceful protests, such as the recently launched boycott of Danish dairy products.

"We don't want what is happening in Europe . . . to cross over to the United States," ADAMS Deputy Imam Sheikh Rashid Lamptey told about 150 men and women attending midday prayers. "We want to conduct [our protests] in a very orderly way."

The cartoons, including one showing Muhammad with a bomb in his head covering, have drawn escalating outrage from Muslims in England, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and in the Palestinian territories.

Yesterday, crowds in Syria set fire to the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish embassies. And, according to a wire report, a radical Islamic preacher in Lebanon demanded that the Danish editor who first printed the cartoons be killed.

Such reactions are "not warranted," said Robert Marro of Great Falls, who was attending prayers at ADAMS. Europeans could have defused the situation by apologizing instead of staking out a hard-line position of upholding free speech, he said.

"Growing up in America, I'm used to political cartoons, but . . . it's clear that this just crossed the line," said Marro, a retired U.S. diplomat. "What would the reaction have been if on Jan. 16, The Washington Post had published a picture of Martin Luther King with gangsta-rap clothing, a crack pipe and a Saturday night special? . . . It would have provoked a storm of outrage."

The cartoons doubly offended Muslims, because in addition to depicting Muhammad in a pejorative manner, they violated Islam's longtime prohibition on any image of the prophet, his family or early companions.

ADAMS's imam, Mohamed Magid, explained that the ban stems from early Islam, when Muhammad preached monotheism in a culture steeped in the worship of idols.

To discourage such idolatry, he ordered Muslims not to draw, and religious leaders have interpreted this to mean that the prophet was banning images of himself and those close to him so they would never become objects of worship for Muslims, Magid said.

"We don't want to attribute divinity to the prophet," he said.

Cautioning his congregation not to overreact, Magid urged them to follow the model set by the prophet, who is said to have always forgiven those who insulted him, including the woman who deposited her trash on him as he passed her home.

Magid also called for "constructive, civilized dialogue so we avoid a clash of civilizations." As part of that effort, he said he and other area Muslim leaders will meet tomorrow with the Danish ambassador to Washington.

At the Falls Church strip mall, where the soccer fans scrunched their shoulders against the damp, cold air, several men voiced appreciation for the U.S. government's criticism of the cartoons. "We salute this position," said a 39-year-old salesman from Tunisia, who declined to give his name.

Majdi Omouri, 30, a limousine driver, was philosophical. "If you look at freedom as something really large, without limits, it doesn't make sense," he said. "Freedom has to be united with responsibility. . . . In the name of freedom, I cannot insult your beliefs."

US sides with Muslims in cartoon dispute

Reuters
Friday, February 3, 2006; 12:22 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/03/AR2006020301577.html

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington on Friday condemned caricatures in European newspapers of the Prophet Mohammad, siding with Muslims who are outraged that the publications put press freedom over respect for religion.

By inserting itself into a dispute that has become a lightning rod for anti-European sentiment across the Muslim world, the United States could help its own battered image among Muslims.

"These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in answer to a question. "We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable."

"We call for tolerance and respect for all communities for their religious beliefs and practices," he added.

Major U.S. publications have not republished the cartoons, which include depictions of Mohammad as a terrorist. That is in contrast to European media, which responded to the criticism against the original Danish newspaper that printed the caricatures by republishing the offensive images themselves.


U.S. Calls Muhammad Drawings 'Offensive'

By QASSIM ABDEL-ZAHRA
Associated Press Writer

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Tens of thousands of angry Muslims marched through Palestinian cities, burning the Danish flag and calling for vengeance Friday against European countries where caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad were published. In Washington, the State Department criticized the drawings, calling them "offensive to the beliefs of Muslims."

While recognizing the importance of freedom of the press and expression, State Department press officer Janelle Hironimus said these rights must be coupled with press responsibility. "Inciting religious or ethnic hatred in this manner is not acceptable," Hironimus said. "We call for tolerance and respect for all communities and for their religious beliefs and practices."

Angry protests against the drawings spread in the Muslim world.

In Iraq, thousands demonstrated after mosque services, and the country's leading Shiite cleric denounced the drawings. About 4,500 people rallied in Basra and hundreds at a Baghdad mosque. Danish flags were burned at both demonstrations.

Muslims in Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia demonstrated against the European nations whose papers published them.

The caricatures, including one depicting the Muslim prophet wearing a turban fashioned into a bomb, were reprinted in papers in Norwegian, French, German and even Jordanian after first appearing in a Danish paper in September. The drawings were republished after Muslims decried the images as insulting to their prophet. Dutch-language newspapers in Belgium and two Italian right-wing papers reprinted the drawings Friday.

Islamic law, based on clerics' interpretation of the Quran and the sayings of the prophet, forbids depiction's of the Prophet Muhammad and other major religious figures even positive ones to prevent idolatry. Shiite Muslim clerics differ in that they allow images of their greatest saint, Ali, the prophet's son-in-law, though not Muhammad.

Danish Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen, in a meeting with the Egyptian ambassador, reiterated his stance that the government cannot interfere with issues concerning the press. On Monday, he said his government could not apologize on behalf of a newspaper, but that he personally "never would have depicted Muhammad, Jesus or any other religious character in a way that could offend other people."

Early Friday, Palestinian militants threw a bomb at a French cultural center in Gaza City, and many Palestinians began boycotting European goods, especially those from Denmark.

"Whoever defames our prophet should be executed," said Ismail Hassan, 37, a tailor who marched through the pouring rain along with hundreds of others in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"Bin Laden our beloved, Denmark must be blown up," protesters in Ramallah chanted.

In mosques throughout Palestinian cities, clerics condemned the cartoons. An imam at the Omari Mosque in Gaza City told 9,000 worshippers that those behind the drawings should have their heads cut off.

"If they want a war of religions, we are ready," Hassan Sharaf, an imam in Nablus, said in his sermon.

About 10,000 demonstrators, including gunmen from the Islamic militant group Hamas firing in the air, marched through Gaza City to the Palestinian legislature, where they climbed on the roof, waving green Hamas banners.

"We are ready to redeem you with our souls and our blood our beloved prophet," they chanted. "Down, Down Denmark."

Thousands of protesters in the center of Nablus burned at least 10 Danish flags. In Jenin, about 1,500 people demonstrated, burning Danish dairy products. Hundreds protested in Jericho, and protests were held in towns throughout Gaza.

Fearing an outbreak of violence, Israel barred all Palestinians under age 45 from praying at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site.

Nevertheless, about 100 men chanting Islamic slogans and carrying a green Hamas flag demonstrated outside Jerusalem's Old City on Friday afternoon. The crowd scattered when police on horseback arrived, and some of the protesters threw rocks. Police broke up a second demonstration at Damascus Gate with tear gas and stun grenades.

In Iraq, the country's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, decried the drawings but did not call for protests.

"We strongly denounce and condemn this horrific action," he said in a statement posted on his Web site and dated Tuesday.

Al-Sistani, who wields enormous influence over Iraq's majority Shiites, made no call for protests and suggested that militant Muslims were partly to blame for distorting Islam's image.

He referred to "misguided and oppressive" segments of the Muslim community and said their actions "projected a distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love and brotherhood."

"Enemies have exploited this ... to spread their poison and revive their old hatreds with new methods and mechanisms," he said.

The drawings were first published in September in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The issue reignited last week after Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Denmark and many European newspapers reprinted them this week.

The Jyllands-Posten had asked 40 cartoonists to draw images of the prophet. The purpose, its chief editor said, was "to examine whether people would succumb to self-censorship, as we have seen in other cases when it comes to Muslim issues."

The 12 caricatures have prompted boycotts of Danish goods, bomb threats and demonstrations in front of Danish embassies across the Islamic world. Muslims have also directed their anger at other European countries, with Palestinian gunmen briefly kidnapping a German citizen Thursday and surrounding European Union headquarters in Gaza.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying the caricatures are an attack on "our spiritual values" which have damaged efforts to establish an alliance between the Muslim world and Europe.

Hundreds of Turks emerging from mosques following Friday prayers staged demonstrations, including one in front of the Danish consulate in Istanbul.

"Hands that reach Islam must be broken," chanted a group of extremists outside the Merkez Mosque in Istanbul.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, more than 150 hardline Muslims stormed a high-rise building housing the Danish Embassy on Friday and tore down and burned the country's flag.

Pakistan's parliament unanimously voted to condemn the drawings as a "vicious, outrageous and provocative campaign" that has "hurt the faith and feelings of Muslims all over the world." About 800 people protested in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, chanting "Death to Denmark" and "Death to France." Another rally in the southern city of Karachi drew 1,200 people.

Fundamentalist Muslims protested outside the Danish Embassy in Malaysia, chanting "Long live Islam, destroy our enemies."

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw criticized European media outlets for republishing the caricatures as demonstrators prepared to take to the streets of London.

Political Islam rises on Bush's doctrine
Voters give power to fundamentalists

Anna Badkhen, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, February 5, 2006 (SF Chronicle)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/02/05/INGRBH0HDE1.DTL

The plan, according to the Bush administration, was to build a firewall around Islamic terrorism in the Middle East by promoting democracy. So how did it happen that the most democratic mechanism of all -- free and fair elections -- brought to power Hamas, a radical Islamic party the United States considers a terrorist group?

From Egypt to Pakistan, the nascent, Washington-backed democratic process has bolstered political forces that are dismissive of, or hostile to, the United States. The recent gains at the ballot box of parties and organizations the United States abhors appear to repudiate the White House's contention that promoting people power is the answer to extremism, forcing experts to examine why the democratic machinery brought extremists to power and whether political Islam is destined to be the future of democracy in the region.

Voters handed a plurality of seats in a permanent Iraqi parliament to Shiite clerics in December, and a fifth of the seats in the Egyptian parliament to the banned Muslim Brotherhood last fall. When Lebanon held its first free vote in decades last year, the Shiite Islamist party Hezbollah -- considered, like Hamas, a terrorist group by the West -- emerged as the main opposition force in parliament.

Doron Ben-Atar, a history professor at Fordham University in New York who specializes in international affairs, says the ascent of political Islam through democratic means epitomizes the mood in the region.

"It looks like, given a choice, the population of the Middle East leans toward Islamic fundamentalism," Ben-Atar said. "Their culture is a Muslim culture, and they look at Islamist parties as the parties that represent them more, culturally, than the secular pro-Western parties."

But other analysts say the trend points less to the Islam's appeal than to the lack of civil society and the oppression of secular opposition groups.

"It's really very simplistic to think that free and fair elections is all you need to have to have democracy, and it's also simplistic to think that people vote for Islamist parties because they're fanatic, they're anti-American," said Mark Tessler, a Middle East expert at the University of Michigan who has written extensively about Islam and democracy.

Part of the problem, Tessler said, is that many Middle Eastern nations don't have in place all the mechanisms necessary to develop a democratic process, such as free media and independent courts.

The West -- and the United States in particular -- should focus more on helping local governments create an environment in which these institutions would thrive, said Larry Diamond, an expert on budding democracies at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

"We need to create more space for political discourse: freedom of speech, civil societies, time for opposition political parties to emerge freely without intimidation to compete," said Diamond, who served as a senior adviser on governance to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad from January to March 2004.

"You can't have democracy without elections," said Lorne Craner, president of the International Republican Institute, which promotes civil society worldwide. "But what happens between elections is at least as important.

You can't just have elections every four, six years and in between not try to build up civil society."

These democratic institutions can take decades to develop, Craner said.

"We Americans have the expectations of things happening fast," he said.

"It's gonna take a lot longer."

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Bush reiterated that the United States will continue to endorse political reform in the region -- even if the results may not always be something Washington prefers.

"Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change," Bush said. But he acknowledges that the political choices of the region's peoples will not always correspond with choices preferable to Americans. "Democracies in the Middle East will not look like our own, because they will reflect the traditions of their own citizens."

The United States spends millions of American taxpayers' dollars annually to promote democracy across the Middle East through U.S. government-sponsored and private organizations. For example, the National Democratic Institute spent $4 million over the last 18 months to train Palestinian election officials and monitors in West Bank and Gaza, and the U.S. Agency for International Development has spent more than $43 million to promote civil society in Iraq since 2003.

Most governments in countries where political Islam thrives maintain tight control over the media and curb the activities of human rights organizations and opposition groups, stunting the growth of secular movements that could threaten the ruling elites, said Leslie Campbell, regional director for Middle East and North Africa programs at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

The only place most governments do not control is the mosque, which opposition Islamist groups use to promote their political views during Friday prayers.

"In much of the Middle East for the last 10 years ... the only political choices have been the authoritarians who use and abuse public resources to perpetuate their rule, and ... the Islamist groups who have the mosque and use the mosque to perpetuate their political views and organize," said Campbell. "And in between you have nothing. Moderate groups have neither the resources nor institutions like the mosque to organize."

In the Palestinian territories, for example, while the ruling Fatah party misused Palestinian Authority resources to promote itself ahead of last week's elections, Hamas "misused the mosque," he said.

"In Ramallah you could barely go by a mosque without seeing it plastered with Hamas election posters. There are pretty inherent disadvantages to being in the moderate middle," said Campbell, who was in that West Bank city on election day.

Radical Islam plays into the hand of authoritarian leaders who want to show that they are the only alternative to fundamentalist religious movements, said Craner. "You have leaders who want to present the world with a choice. They say to the Americans: 'OK, you want democracy? It's either me or the lunatic Islamist,' " he said.

"You see this in Pakistan," where the pro-U.S. government of President Pervez Musharraf is confronted by an alliance of religious parties that controls 20 percent of the seats in the parliament, Craner said, while in Egypt, "they go after the Muslim Brotherhood, but they're going after the new more moderate political opponent even harder, so that they can present the United States with a choice: It's either me or the Islamist lunatic."

He was referring to Ayman Nour, who was jailed after losing the presidential race to long-time incumbent Hosni Mubarak on forgery charges that were decried by human rights groups as a blatant attempt to shut down the opposition.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalists also reflects the people's grievances with the religiously moderate parties in power, said Radwan Masmoudi, president of the Washington-based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy.

"Secularism has lost a lot of its appeal in the Muslim world precisely because we have had secular regimes that are extremely authoritarian and oppressive ... like (Iraq's former leader) Saddam Hussein and Mubarak in Egypt," Masmoudi said.

In the Palestinian territories, for example, Hamas has always had support in the cramped, dusty urban mazes of the impoverished Gaza Strip, where it set up a network of services that proved far more effective than the Palestinian Authority could manage. But the frustrations of the Palestinians with the secular Fatah party's corrupt rule led to the militant group's growing popularity in the West Bank, said Clayton Swisher, who served as an election monitor with the joint National Democratic Institute and the Carter Center delegation on Jan 25. He cited as an example Tulkarem -- a West Bank town whose farmlands were slashed by the separation barrier Israel is erecting -- where he observed the voting.

"Hamas gets out there, delivers zakat (charity), they provide the basic services to the extent that they can," said Swisher, the programs director at the Middle East Institute in Washington. Under Hamas influence, he said, the Tulkarem population is becoming more conservative. "When you see women veiling from head to toe, you've got to sit up."

The ascent of religious groups hostile to the United States should come as no surprise, said Tessler of the University of Michigan.

"Because we are so unpopular in that part of the world, in a fair election there's a reasonably good chance that a government will come to power that doesn't like us very much, because it represents people who don't like us very much, and we need to kind of factor that into our calculations," said Tessler.

This does not mean, however, that the future of democracy in the region is inextricably linked to radical Islam, said Masmoudi. He cited the example of Turkey, where the pro-Islamic government, hemmed in by the armed forces historically opposed to the sway of religious parties, runs as a secular state.

"Turkey ... shows that if moderate Islamic parties are allowed to participate in the political process, they will mature and they will move away from slogans such as 'Islam is the answer' " -- the slogan the Muslim Brotherhood used in Egypt -- "and move toward practical solutions and pragmatic programs," he said.

As democracy in the region matures, so will the moderate opposition, presenting people in the region with more political options, predicted Tamara Wittis, an expert on the Middle East at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center.

"It shouldn't surprise anyone that in the first election in which alternatives are allowed to compete in a free atmosphere, Islamists come to power," said Wittis. "But it doesn't mean that the future of democracy in the region is an Islamist future."

AFGHANISTAN

04/02/2006 Afghanistan: Afghan TV fined for "un-Islamic" material

Text of report by Amanullah Nasrat, published by London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting website on 4 February

In its first move against a private television station, the government has imposed a 1,000 US dollars fine on Afghan TV for broadcasting "un-Islamic" materials.

The fine was levied by a special media commission, composed of six members from various government organs, and headed by the minister of information, culture and tourism.

The commission, which has been in place for about a year, is responsible for enforcing the country's media law and reviewing the public's complaints against newspapers and broadcasters.

Afghanistan's media law prohibits the publication or broadcast of any material that is considered counter to Islamic law.

Deputy Minister of Information and Culture Sayed Aqa Hussain Sancharaki, who was present when the decision to fine Afghan TV was taken, said that the media commission had previously met with the heads of all five of Kabul's television stations, both public and private, and urged them to cut materials that violated the Koran and Afghan culture.

But despite the warning, said Sancharaki, Afghan TV, a private station, continued to air movies and music videos that broke the media law.

"We are protectors of press freedom, but we have a responsibility to society as well, not to let our young people be misled by violence and sensuality," he told IWPR [Institute for War and Peace Reporting].

Ahmad Shah Afghanzai, the owner of Afghan TV, said he is angry and bewildered by the fine. "I still do not know why [we have] been fined, nor do I know to whom I am supposed to give the money," he told IWPR.

A statement issued by the broadcaster said: "Afghan TV is upset by this decision, which was made in its absence. We consider it unfair. Afghan TV has always designed its broadcasts based on the constitution and the media law."

Sancharaki disputed the station's version of events: "The commission called Afghanzai in twice and outlined to him the complaints against him. We showed him clips which had been broadcast by his station, and he admitted that they were against our society's values and promised it would not happen again."

Afghan TV is one of four private stations in Kabul, and has been broadcasting since late 2004. It has a limited reach - it cannot be seen outside the capital and does not reach every neighbourhood even in Kabul.

Afghan TV devotes the bulk of it 24-hour programming to music and films, with no news and a few analytical programmes.

At first glance, Afghan TV would not seem to be the most daring of the private stations. Tolo TV, one that is widely considered the most popular television channel in the country, has been at the centre of many controversies since it went on air in October 2004.

Ariana, another private outlet that began broadcasting at the end of 2005, has also shown movies and music videos that some have called obscene. The difference, said Sancharaki, is that Tolo and Ariana have agreed to what amounts to self-censorship.

"They [Tolo and Ariana] established offices in their stations to censor and control their broadcasts," said Sancharaki.

But the head of the news section at the Ariana Television Network, Ali Yawar Salimi, said that Ariana's censorship section was established independently of the government to ensure that Ariana's broadcasts did not put it in conflict with Islamic culture.

"We have always had a section for controlling our broadcasts," he said. "This was not due to pressure from the government."

Tolo TV declined to comment on the issue. However, it has recently begun obscuring the screen during particularly risque music videos and movies.

Rahimullah Samander, head of the Afghan Independent Journalists Association, AIJA, and a member of the media commission, defended the decision to fine Afghan TV. According to Samander, Article 33 of the media law provides for penalties against private media outlets if they go against the law.

"I am not happy that Afghan TV was fined, but I have to say it was fair," he told IWPR. "Media in Afghanistan are only now becoming familiar with their new freedoms. If a media organization is closed down, it would be a major blow, so levying a fine is the best option. This happens all over the world."

Under the Taleban, music and film were forbidden; even photography was banned. When the restrictions were lifted, some media outlets sought to test the limits of what is considered acceptable.

Even today, material that would seem fairly tame by international standards - such as women dancing "suggestively" or with bare midriffs, and movies depicting couples kissing - is considered taboo.

Some Kabul residents applaud the commission's decision, hoping this will be a lesson to other media to respect Afghan tradition.

"These private television stations are trying to replace Afghan culture with foreign culture," said Sayed Atta Mohammad, 36. "I want the ministry of information and culture to shut these stations down."

Others, however, fear that the ruling signals a crackdown on press freedom.

According to 29-year-old Habibullah: "By taking this decision, the ministry of information and culture once again showed the world that there is no freedom of the press in Afghanistan, and that the culture of the Taleban is still dominant."

Source: Institute for War and Peace Reporting website, London, in English 4 Feb 06

ALGERIA

08/02/2006 Algerian TV officials sacked for showing Muhammad cartoons - Egyptian agency

Text of report in English by Egyptian news agency MENA

Algiers, 8 February: A number of Algerian TV executives were sacked for having aired the controversial caricatures affronting Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

Director-general of Algeria's national TV Habib Shawqi Hamrawi fired Lotfi Shriet, the head of the French-language Canal Algerie TV channel, and Houria Khathier, the director of Channel 3 of the Algerian television, along with other officials for having transmitted the cartoons insulting the prophet.

Hamrawi decided that they should all be referred to a disciplinary committee.

The editor-in-chief of the news department at Canal Algerie TV channel was also fired several days ago for the same reason.

Meantime, Algerian authorities also suspended Al-Resalah and Iqraa, two weekly newspapers, for having printed the same drawings.

Source: MENA news agency, Cairo, in English 1412 gmt 8 Feb 06

DENMARK

07/02/2006 Prophet cartoons row - media repercussions

Editorial analysis by BBC Monitoring Media Services on 7 February

The publishing of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad has lead to mass protests and deaths. The impact on the media in many countries is a consequence of what started as an exercise to see if cartoonists in Denmark were operating self-censorship.

When a writer complained that no cartoonists dared illustrate his book about the Prophet Mohammad, Denmark's top-selling daily Jyllands-Posten appealed for cartoonists to undertake the work. Traditionally all representation of the Prophet is forbidden in Islam. On 30 September 2005 Jyllands-Posten published a series of 12 cartoons, including one which shows the head of Mohammed wearing a turban in the form of a bomb, the fuse of which is lit.

In Denmark, Muslim religious leaders on 6 October called for the daily to withdraw the cartoons and make an official apology. Some 5,000 Muslims demonstrated in the streets of Copenhagen on 14 October, saying the cartoons were "provocative" and "arrogant" according to a report by the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on 17 October.

The report continued that the newspaper's editor, Carsten Juste, revealed on 12 October that it was to hire security staff to protect the journalists working for him, after receiving several phone and email death threats following publication of "Faces of Mohammed".

RSF condemned the death threats and said "It is unbelievable that one can make death threats against cartoonists in Denmark, one of the countries in the world that shows most respect for press freedom".

A Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson on 7 November was reported by Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency to have strongly condemned the publication of blasphemous cartoons by Jyllands-Posten and described it an "act of Islamophobia.".

Jyllands-Posten reporters banned

On the 12 November the Danish newspaper Politiken website reported that Jyllands-Posten had been banned from Hizb ut-Tahrir's annual conference on 13 November, citing a direct quotation from the statsterror.dk website, which carried practical information about the conference.

It is not the first time that Jyllands-Posten has been refused entry by the radical Islamic group. Jyllands-Posten editor-in-chief Carsten Juste took the paper's exclusion calmly. "I think this says a lot. It is highly characteristic of Hizb ut-Tahrir's view of the concept of freedom of speech - I have nothing else to say on the matter," he said.

Per Knudsen, editor-in-chief of Politiken, a Danish daily newspaper, was more direct in his criticism of his competitor's exclusion. "It is completely unacceptable that the meeting is not open to all media. I would therefore urge Hizb ut-Tahrir to grant Jyllands-Posten access to the meeting so that the newspaper can ask critical questions like those that Politiken wants to ask. Hizb ut-Tahrir must understand that excluding media with which it disagrees is fundamentally at odds with the rules of a democratic society like Denmark's," he said.

Further cartoons published

In November a second Danish newspaper, Weekendavisen, the weekend version of the Copenhagen-based Berlingske Tidende daily, added to the furore when it published ten satirical pictures. The Islamic Faith Foundation directed strong criticism at Weekendavisen, a spokesman said "Weekendavisen has shown pictures worse than Jyllands-Posten. There is a campaign to ridicule Muslims in Denmark,".

Condemnation of the cartoons continued across the Muslim world and on 10 January 2006 newspapers outside Denmark added to the controversy when the Norwegian newspaper Magizinet, an Oslo-based Christian publication, printed pictures. Its editor Vebjorn K. Selbekk had taken this action, he said, to defend freedom of speech.

Since then the cartoons have been repeated in a number of European countries , as well as amongst others Jordan, Yemen, Malaysia and Australia.

On 8 February the issue was showing no signs of abating. A BBC report said that a French court has refused to prevent a satirical magazine from publishing more cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed on Wednesday 8 February. Several Islamic organisations had complained that the plans by the weekly publication Charlie Hebdo were an insult to their religion. But the civil court in Paris rejected the application on a technicality.

The latest edition of Charlie Hebdo features all twelve cartoons of Mohammed that originally appeared in Jyllands-Posten. It also has a new front page drawing under the headline "Mohammed stressed out by the fundamentalists". Religions other than Islam are caricatured as well. Several French Muslim organisations applied for an injunction to stop publication, arguing that the edition amounted to a religious and racial insult.

Effect on journalists

France-Soir reprinted the cartoons and as a consequence on 1 February the owner of France-Soir , Franco-Egyptian Raymond Lakah, sacked his managing editor, Jacques Lefranc for allowing the publication of the cartoons. However on 2 February the publication stuck to it guns, its main headline being "Help, Voltaire! They've gone mad" and staff passed a resolution "demanding the retention" of Jacques Lefranc. Tunisian authorites seized copies of France-Soir on 1 February because of content deemed offensive to Muslims.

On Friday 3 February the Moroccan Ministry of Communication prohibited the entry and distribution of El Pais because it reproduced on its front page the cartoonist Plantu's caricature of the Prophet Muhammad, published the same day in the French daily Le Monde. As well as El Pais, Rabat has vetoed the entry of many newspapers such as France's France Soir, Germany's Die Welt, Italy's Corriere Della Sera or Spain's ABC, for reproducing some of the cartoons.

In Jordan two publications published the cartoons, the weeklies "Shihan" and "Al-Mihwar" and on 4 February both of the publications' editors-in-chief Jihad al-Mawmani and Hisham al-Khalidi were arrested on the order of the general prosecutor. And, according to a BBC report Arab Printers Company, the publisher of Shihan, also withdrew copies of the popular tabloid from news stands across the country and promised tough moves against those involved.

On 4 February a South Africa court banned Sunday papers from publishing the cartoons and the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) said several South African media houses were gagged from publishing the cartoons on Friday 3 February. But on Sunday 5 February SANEF announced that it is not to contest the Johannesburg High Court decision barring publication of the controversial cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. SANEF has, however, expressed its reservations about the ruling. It says the order amounts to pre-publication censorship by the court. The Council of Muslim theologians was granted the interdict on Friday 3 February.

The Yemeni news agency Saba website reported on 6 February that the authorities had issued a statement cancelling Al-Huriyah newspaper's licence. It also ordered the arrest of its publisher and chief-editor, Abd-al-Karim Sabrah, based on a law regarding the publishing of insulting images, which stipulates than no publication shall cause damage to the Islamic faith and its sublime principles, or degrade divine religions and human beliefs.

In Malaysia an editor from the English-language Sarawak Tribune was reported to have resigned by the Malaysiakini website on 6 February, although on 7 February the same source said he was in fact "asked to leave". Malaysiakini website also reports on 7 February that the Information Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Kadir Shaykh Fadzir said the daily deserves the "heaviest punishment" over the cartoons.

On 7 February the Croatian website Index.hr reported that a Lebanese cleric had issued a death sentence against all those who published the cartoons, including the publishers of the Zagreb-based Nacional weekly.

Contest, in response

In Iran the Tehran-based newspaper Hamshahri took a different line. In response to a number of European newspapers publishing the cartoons, which it said was on the pretext of freedom of expression, it is holding a contest to test the "West's freedom of expression".

"Does the West's freedom of expression extend to subjects such as America and Israel's crimes and plundering or an event such as the Holocaust or is this freedom of expression only for the desecration of the sanctities of divine religions?", it asks. It has called on the artists of the world to use freedom of expression and to enter their illustrations on these subjects.

Jyllands-Posten circulation static

As for Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper apologized to Muslims for the cartoons of Muhammad. In an interview with Qatari-based Al-Jazeera satellite TV Jyllands-Posten's cultural editor Flemming Rose was asked whether the newspaper wanted to "test the limits of freedom of expression by offending Islam and Prophet Muhammad". Rose began by first saying "Let me first say that I am sorry if somebody in your country or in the Arab and Islamic worlds feels insulted by these cartoons. It was not our intention. We were really testing the limits of freedom of expression."

Jyllands-Posten circulation figures have been unaffected by the cartoons row, although the newspaper directors believe the drawings will give the newspaper a distinct profile, but a PR expert doubted that this will be positive, according to a report on Danmarks Radio's website on 3 February.

Source: BBC Monitoring research 7 Feb 06

Iran

02/02/2006 Iran press: UK "special agent" said to be behind embassy property claims

Text of unattributed article from "Behind the scenes of politics" column: "England's special agent in the Municipality of District Three", published by the Iranian newspaper Siyasat-e Ruz on 2 February

Under the influence of the special agent of the embassy of England in the municipality of District Three, this municipality has claimed that the British embassy has an official deed for the Qolhak property.

Last night the 2030 [local time] news programme quoted the municipality of this district and announced: "The British embassy obtained a deed for the property that it has in Qolhak in the year 1313 [1935]."

Our reporter also reported in this regard: "The embassy of Britain in Qolhak has a special agent in the municipality of that region and this news is the result of his secretive cooperation with the municipality."

Based on the results of the investigations made by our reporter, this country has no creditable deed for Qolhak.

An informed source also told our report in this regard: "The municipality is under the influence of a British agent and the spreading of news in this regard is just the result of lobbying and the influence of the above-mentioned element."

He emphasized: "If the municipality does not compensate for its mistake the entire event will be disclosed."

He complained about the action of channel two of Voice and Vision about making news which benefits the English and said: "What need there was for the Voice and Vision to reflect an event which has happened in a lowly unit of the municipality before the legally responsible official made the necessary inquiries?"

He added: "Why has the municipality and Voice and Vision reacted and done what the outsiders wanted them to do, while the investigations by the General Prosecutor's Office have not been finalized, and some of the sources of emulation have shown a reaction to this matter and asked the administration to prosecute?"

Siyasat-e Ruz will publish additional reports on this matter in the coming days.

Source: Siyasat-e Ruz, Tehran, in Persian 2 Feb 06, p2

08/02/2006 Iran's "first international Islamic satellite station" begins broadcasting

Text of report by Iranian radio on 8 February

[Presenter] Iran's first international, Islamic, satellite station, by the name of Al-Kawthar, has begun its activities.

Mr Sarafraz, deputy head for external services of the Voice and Vision [radio and TV] Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has provided some information in this respect to which I draw your attention.

[Sarafraz] From the beginning of this year [current Iranian year began in March 2005], we devised a new structure for a new Arabic station, with the aim of propagating Islamic teachings and, especially, for propagating the teachings of the Household of the Prophet [Shi'i teachings], which has many supporters in this region and there are many interested people in European countries and in North Africa.

It was decided that the station would begin its work under a new name and the auspicious name of Al-Kawthar [a river in paradise] was chosen. God willing, the station will be able to propagate the multifarious teachings of the Household of the Prophet, peace be upon them, and will turn into a multifarious blessing itself.

We will broadcast programmes such as films and serials on the station which have their own audience, religious teachings, political debates, in a topical form, programmes for children, young people and young adults via Tehran, Qom, Beirut - specifically from these countries [as heard] - and other centres such as London; various segments of these networks [as heard] are being produced and broadcast.

Source: Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran, in Persian 0432 gmt 8 Feb 06

Pakistan

08/02/2006 Pakistan Muslim League head says Danish cartoons aim at clash of civilizations

Text of report by Pakistan TV on 8 February

Publication of caricatures about the defamation of the holy prophet, peace be upon him, in some European newspapers is sinister international conspiracy. It will lead to dire consequences if peoples of the Western countries do not take note of it. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, president of Pakistan Muslim League, said this while talking to representatives of media in Islamabad. He said that the profane audacity was aimed at creating clash of civilizations. He said that the irresponsible attitude of some European newspapers had sent a wave of deep shock and anger across the Islamic world.

Source: Pakistan TV, Islamabad, in Urdu 1600 gmt 8 Feb 06

QATAR

08/02/2006 Qatar/BBC: Al-Jazeera International appoints BBC's Barnaby Phillips

Text of press release by Al-Jazeera International on 8 February

Al-Jazeera International, the 24-hour English-language news and current affairs channel, headquartered in Doha, announced today that they have appointed renowned journalist Barnaby Phillips as their Europe correspondent based in Athens.

Barnaby joins Al-Jazeera International from the BBC where his last position was as Southern Africa Correspondent for television and radio based in Johannesburg. He has extensive global experience having also worked in the Middle East, West Africa and Asia. Barnaby has covered major stories such as the AIDS epidemic, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, the war in Liberia, the 2002 Southern African food crises, the war in Iraq and the South Asian Tsunami.

Barnaby will be based in Athens as European correspondent for Al-Jazeera International working directly with the channel's London broadcast centre - the channel's principle European bureau after London. The London broadcast centre will be responsible for Europe and Russia bringing news to English speaking viewers around the world for several hours each day as one of four broadcast centres strategically placed around the world in Doha, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington DC.

With the BBC Barnaby has reported regularly for BBC World and World Service Radio, the Ten O'Clock News on BBC 1 as well as flagship programmes including Today on Radio 4 and Newsnight on BBC 2.

Speaking on the appointment from the channel's headquarters in Doha, Director of News Steve Clark said, "Barnaby Phillips is a great addition to our news team and I am pleased to have him on board as European correspondent".

Barnaby Phillips said, "I am delighted to be joining Al-Jazeera International to report on news from across Europe to the rest of the English speaking world".

Barnaby first joined the BBC in 1991 and has remained with them until leaving to take up his post with Al-Jazeera International this year. In London he worked mainly at the BBC World Service. He was a BBC stringer in Mozambique and Angola in the mid-1990's, where he began his career as a reporter, covering civil wars and peace processes, and learning Portuguese. In 1998 he became the BBC correspondent in Nigeria until 2001 when he moved to Johannesburg with the BBC, as Southern Africa Correspondent.

Source: Al-Jazeera International press release, Doha, in English 8 Feb 06

YEMEN

08/02/2006 Yemeni papers banned for publishing "insulting" cartoons

Text of report by Yemeni news agency Saba website

The Ministry of Information has cancelled the licences of the Yemen Observer and Al-Ra'y al-Amm newspapers for reprinting the pictures insulting the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and which were published by one of the Danish papers.

An official source from the Ministry of Information told the Yemeni News Agency, Saba, that the ministry issued a statement today cancelling the licences of the two papers, and referred their publishers and chief-editors to the prosecutor of press and publishing so that they can take the necessary action in this regard.

The source said the ministry had based its decision on the 1990 Law of Press and Publishing No 25 regarding the publishing of insulting images in violation of Section A of Article 103 of illegal publishing, which stipulates that no publication shall cause damage to the Islamic faith and its sublime principles, or degrade divine religions and human beliefs.

The official stressed that the ministry was committed to press freedom, and media that was responsible within the framework of the law.

Source: Saba news agency website, Sanaa, in Arabic 8 Feb 06

AZERBAIJAN

11/02/2006 Iranian embassy condemns Azeri weekly for abusive remarks on Jesus, Mary

Excerpt from report by Azerbaijani news agency Turan

Baku, 11 February: The Iranian embassy in Azerbaijan today condemned offensive remarks published "in a Baku weekly" about Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary.

The embassy said that the offensive remarks could have appeared in the newspaper either because of a lack of knowledge of the Koran's chapter on Virgin Mary or that they were aimed at fomenting hostility between Muslims and Christians.

The Iranian embassy, which is critical of the publication of Prophet Muhammad's cartoons in the Western media, also strongly condemned the offensive statements against Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary.

Interestingly enough, the Iranian embassy was the first to react to the newspaper articles. Turan news agency has found out that the newspaper which published the offensive remarks about Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary was Yeni Xabar, a little-known weekly.

The author of the articles, Natiq Muxtarli, says the articles were a response to the Western media for its insulting Prophet Muhammad and [violating] freedom of speech.

The chairman of Azerbaijan's Media Council, Aflatun Amasov, has condemned the articles in Yeni Xabar. Amasov said the publication of such articles were against the Constitution of the country and also the media law and the Code of Journalism.

[Passage omitted: Amasov urges journalists not to hurt religious feelings of people]

Source: Turan news agency, Baku, in Russian 1424 gmt 11 Feb 06

BANGLADESH

10/02/2006 Anti-cartoon protests continue in Bangladesh

Text of report by Bangladeshi newspaper New Age website on 10 February

Different Islamist organizations have continued demonstrations in the city to protest against the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (SM) that have triggered off Muslim furore worldwide.

Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh (HTB) will lay siege to the Danish embassy in Dhaka after Jumaa [Friday] prayers today, 10 February. Activists of the organization will march towards the embassy from Bailtul Mokarram mosque [national mosque], a press release said on Thursday, 9 February.

To protest against publication of the cartoons in western newspapers, women activists of the HIzb-ut Tahrir will form a human chain in front of Alliance Francaise at 10.00 a.m. [local time] today, according to the press release.

Security has been stepped up in and around the Danish embassy and the Alliance Francaise to avert possible troubles. Earlier, the government enhanced security in the diplomatic enclave following violent demonstrations in different countries over the cartoons.

Combined Islamist Organization, a platform of different Islamist groups in Bangladesh, has chalked out different programmes to protest against the caricature. The programmes were announced from a meeting of the organizations at the central office of Islamic Constitution Movement on Thursday.

The local Ahmadiyya community has also condemned publication of the cartoons and hailed British media for a responsible response to the cartoon controversy.

Source: New Age website, Dhaka, in English 10 Feb 06

PAKISTAN

11/02/2006 Pakistan editorial calls for restraint in anti-cartoon rally 5 March

Text of editorial entitled: "Violent protest"; published by Pakistani newspaper Dawn website on 11 February

It is time all those hurt by the publication of the blasphemous cartoons in a Danish newspaper paid heed to the joint call by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the European Union and the UN. The statement by the representatives of the three organizations, while recognizing "deep hurt and widespread indignation" in the Muslim world over the publication of the "offensive caricatures", pleaded for "restraint and calm". The statement goes to the heart of the problem when it says that freedom of speech entails "responsibility and discretion" and that one must show respect and sensitivity for other faiths even if one does not believe in the faith in question. The reaction of all Muslims has understandably been strong, and Muslim governments have expressed their concern to the Danish and other European governments. But in many places the protests turned violent, especially in Beirut and Damascus where some foreign missions were burnt. This is regrettable, because violence in any form cannot be condoned. Those who torched the embassies could have registered their protest peacefully and in a dignified manner. What they have done instead is to hurt their own just cause.

The issue is of special relevance to Pakistan. So far protests against the sacrilege have been peaceful, and let us hope that the rally planned for March 5 will be equally non-violent. It is confined to Karachi, and one hopes the organizers of the rally as well as the provincial government will take all measures to ensure a peaceful mode of protest. But going by what has happened in the past, especially in Karachi, one must keep one's fingers crossed. Often, demonstrators have damaged public and private property and attacked individuals and targets that had nothing to do with a given incident. After the murder of a religious divine in Karachi, the organization to which he belonged gave a call for a "wheel jam" strike, but on the strike's eve public and private property was attacked, vehicles were burnt and the offices of a newspaper vandalized and put to the torch. Some political parties have behaved no differently and closed shops by force and burnt buses and cars to enforce their strikes. In 2004, a bomb blast in a mosque led to the burning of a fast-food shop whose owners and workers - six of whom were killed - had nothing to do with the act of terrorism in the mosque.

The printing of the cartoons was a highly provocative act by the Danish newspaper, which later apologized to the Muslims, while the Danish government expressed its "distress". Some other European dailies have not helped the cause of sanity or contributed to a lessening of the tension by reproducing the cartoons. In fact, as a separate OIC statement points out, the cartoons' reproduction "aggravated" the situation. But let us note that the sins committed by some newspapers cannot be heaped on all the world's Christians. Many "Christian" governments have deplored the cartoons' publication, and the Pope has come out strongly against the act. At the same time, the European media should note the vast demographic change that has occurred in almost all European countries. In its reporting and comments, the western media should take into account the multi-ethnic nature of their societies and refrain from comments that may not enlighten their public about a given issue but alienate minorities who are now in Europe's mainstream. Muslim groups in Europe could also consider approaching the European Court of Human Rights.

Source: Dawn website, Karachi, in English 11 Feb 06

Pakistan

11/02/2006 Pakistan province announces economic boycott over cartoons

Text of report by Yousaf Ali: "NWFP announces boycott of European products" by Pakistani newspaper The News website on 11 February

Peshawar: Terming the publication of the blasphemous sketches a new form of terrorism, the NWFP [North-West Frontier Province] senior minister, Sirajul Haq, on Friday [10 February] announced a boycott on behalf of the people and government of the province of the products of the countries where the sacrilegious caricatures were published and asked the federal government to snap diplomatic and trade ties with these countries.

The frequent publication of the irreverent cartoons has whipped up anguish not only among the Muslims but every wise human being, said the minister while talking to mediamen after delivering Dars-e-Qur'aan [lecture on Koran] at the Peshawar press club.

"This heinous act of anti-Islamic elements is a proof of the fact that the world is faced with a severe kind of instability these days. Islam is a religion of peace and love, but the West has made it clear that they would oppose Islam and Muslims. They are actually opposing their own hollow claims of democracy and human rights," he said.

The Muslim world should not be silent over the issue, he said, adding that instead of the people the rulers of the Muslim countries should become active in opposing the move.

The Muslim world should convene a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to devise a joint strategy. The 56 Islamic countries should utilise all their resources and energies to stop the process, which is going on unabated, he added.

The minister demanded of the federal government and all the Muslim countries to sever diplomatic and trade ties with all the countries responsible for harming the religious sentiments of Muslims. He said the Muslim world should send diplomatic delegations to all the countries of the globe in order to clarify the sensitivity of situation.

When quizzed whether the NWFP government would end the accords it has made with the European countries in various sectors, Siraj said: "Actually, determination of foreign policy is the federal government's responsibility and we demand of the Centre to end all kinds of ties and accords with these countries."

Earlier, the minister delivered Dars-e-Koran to mediamen. This was the first Koranic lecture of the process started by the new body of Peshawar press club.

Siraj focused his lecture on the Islamic teachings of jihad [holy war]. He said jihad is a broad term, which means struggle against evil in any kind.

Source: The News website, Islamabad, in English 11 Feb 06

Yemen

11/02/2006 Yemeni authorities ban newspaper; detain editor for reprinting Danish cartoons

Text of report in English by Yemeni newspaper Yemen Observer website on 11 February

Mohammed al-Asadi, the Yemen Observer's chief editor has been taken into state custody by the Office of the Print and Media Prosecutor in Sana'a. Mr Al-Asadi has been formally charged with printing materials offensive to the Prophet. The chief prosecutor told Mr Al-Asadi's lawyer that his client was being detained for his own protection. Bail was denied.

This most recent development comes after Mr Al-Asadi reprinted a version of the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The Yemen Observer published the cartoons under a thick black banner that was meant to obscure the offending image, but the banner, in the print run of the newspaper, was insufficiently black, and some details of the drawings could be distinguished under the dark ink. The cartoons appeared in the newspaper in order to illustrate a story about Yemeni protests over the cartoon incident.

In addition to the news article about the protests and the cartoons, the Observer published a page of capsule quotes, mostly from Western historians and philosophers, which situated the doings of the Prophet in historical context.

The prosecution also issued a decree revoking the license of the Yemen Observer. Internet publication has not been explicitly forbidden and the Observer will therefore continue to carry out its mission on the web.

The closure of the newspaper comes after the Prime Minister's Office deliberated over the Observer's publication of the cartoons. It appears the prime minister, Abdul Qadr Bajammal, perhaps under some pressure, urged the closing of the newspaper. The arrest of the editor in chief followed swiftly thereon.

Source: Yemen Observer website, Sanaa, in English 11 Feb 06

IRAN

12/02/2006 Blocking of BBC Persian website said to have been lifted in Iran

Text of report by Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) website

Tehran, 12 February: The deputy head of the public relations office of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry has reported that the filtering of the BBC site has been lifted.

Speaking to ILNA's reporter, Engineer Mas'ud Fateh added: The site can currently be accessed by all users throughout the country.

It should be added that the BBC's Persian website was being filtered by the Communications Technology Company (Data) from a little while ago and other Internet service providers were also blocking the site in line with this company. But from a few hours ago, users have been able to access the site.

Source: Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA), Tehran, in Persian 1237 gmt 12 Feb 06

BBC Arabic seeks young people’s view of the future

Cairo 13 February. BBC Arabic radio and online today launched an interactive road show of events in five locations across the Arabic-speaking world designed to involve young people and encourage them to debate the key issues which affect their daily lives and their long-term future.

Your future, who decides it? launches in the Egyptian capital, Cairo with interactive booths and conversation-promoting materials at places young people meet and mingle, such as universities, shopping malls, gyms and coffee shops. On Monday, 20 February, Cairo University hosts a BBC debate on marriage which is broadcast live on BBC Arabic radio and webcast live on bbcarabic.com


The debate features speakers Dr. Abdel Baset Abdel Mutee, Sociology Professor at Ein Shams University, Dr. Ali Mohamed Mekawi, Head of the Sociology, Faculty of Arts at Cairo University, and renowned writer and analyst, Fareeda Al Nakkash. The debate is informed by an opinion poll, commissioned by the BBC, seeking young people’s views, and will include comments prompted by the materials – emailed to bbcarabic.com and hand-written on posters around Cairo.

Your future, who decides it? then tours Amman in Jordan, Khartoum, in Sudan, the West Bank, and Damascus in Syria encouraging responses and debate around a range of national and social issues relevant in the lives of young people, ranging from what life is like between borders and crossing points, to the search for identity.


Jerry Timmins, Regional Head, BBC Middle East says: “We have made several changes to the Arabic service over the past two years which make the output more accessible and appealing to younger people in the Middle East and North Africa. It is obviously right that we include amongst our long established audience the generation who will be setting the pace for social and economic development in the years ahead.


“After all, this is the generation who will increasingly expect their news provision to be multimedia, accessible and relevant on a variety of platforms 24 hours a day - something the BBC is well positioned to provide.”


Hosam El Sokkari, Head of BBC Arabic service, adds: “Across the Arabic-speaking world, young people are in the majority in terms of numbers but usually have a minority voice. Your future, who decides it? ensures we hear that voice. We are taking BBC Arabic to them - to the universities, sports clubs, shopping malls and coffee shops - so we can access their views directly. I am confident we are going to generate great content for our radio programmes and for our online site, bbcarabic.com, building relationships which will inform our output in the years ahead.”

A special micro-site on bbcarabic.com ensures Your future, who decides it? is followed by Arabic speakers across the world. It carries features on the debate themes, details the research results, includes images and audio from the interactive events and posts comments from those wishing to express their views. It also promotes a newsletter registration site, from which the debate event audiences will be invited – bbcarabic.com/future

Your future, who decides it? debates are broadcast live on BBC Arabic and webcast live on bbcarabic.com at 15.00 GMT:

Cairo University, 20 February: Traditional marriage, obstacles and alternatives. BBC presenter Karem Awad

Afghnistan

11/02/2006 Afghanistan: Jalalabad TV transmitter blown up

Text of report by Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency

Jalalabad, 11 February: Unidentified people blew up a transmitter of the Nangarhar Television Department using bombs. Also, two rockets were fired at Jalalabad airport. The rockets fell a few kilometres away from the airport.

The deputy chief of Khogiani District in Nangarhar Province, Watan Khan, confirmed the report. He told Afghan Islamic Press [AIP]: "Unidentified people blew up a transmitter of the Jalalabad Television Department, which is located in the centre of Khogiani District, Kaga, last night. They also destroyed the generator."

The government of India helped Jalalabad TV. It has also provided five districts of Nangarhar Province with transmitters.

An engineer working for Jalalabad TV told AIP: "The generator, which was blown up, cost 20,000 dollars."

According to another report, two rockets were fired from the south [of the province], targeting Jalalabad airport this morning at 0600 local time.

The rockets fell on farms in Behsud District, north of the city. There has been no damage.

The Taleban spokesman, Dr Mohammad Hanif, told AIP this morning: "Three rockets, the target of which was Jalalabad airport, were fired this morning. Two of them hit the airport but the third one missed its target." Authorities say that the rockets fell 4 km from the airport.

Source: Afghan Islamic Press news agency, Peshawar, in Pashto 0901 gmt 11 Feb 06

13/02/2006 Afghanistan: Private Tolo TV, Radio Arman launch broadcasts in Ghazni

Text of report in English by Afghan independent Pajhwok news agency website

Ghazni city, 13 February: The private Tolo Television and Radio Arman launched transmissions in southern Ghazni Province on Sunday [12 February]. The transmissions can also be watched in some border areas of neighbouring Pakistan.

Engineer Sayed Hamidollah, in charge of the technical branch of Tolo TV, told Pajhwok Afghan News their aim was to reach a maximum audience and to provide entertainment, fresh news and information to viewers.

Asked about criticism from the public about the glamour in Tolo programmes, Hamidollah said constructive criticism had always been welcome and they would try to make improvements to their programmes.

Chief of the Ghazni Information and Culture Department Mustafa Khan Wardag hailed the launch of transmissions in the province. He said the transmissions had been allowed on condition of airing quality programmes which suit the traditions of the target audience.

While some people appreciate Tolo for its programmes, others believe its broadcasts are not in line with the culture and traditions of the people of Afghanistan.

Dr Bashir Ahmad of the Ghazni main civil hospital says the TV sometimes shows programmes which are not in conformity with Islam or the traditions of Afghan people. A local writer and journalist Nasir Ahmad Ahmadi also said people in the countryside were backward and could be easily misguided by such programmes.

Another viewer, Engineer Zalmay, says the TV programmes were imbalanced as far as the two majority languages of the country are concerned. He said the Dari language had been given more time compared to Pashto, which is the majority language. He believed the TV would lose its audience if it continued with the same discriminatory policy.

Source: Pajhwok Afghan News website, Kabul, in English 1324 gmt 13 Feb 06

13/02/2006 Iran press queries ownership of UK embassy garden in Tehran

Text of report by Iranian briefing material from BBC Monitoring on 13 February

The British embassy's ownership of the Qolhak compound in northern Tehran has become the target of the Iranian conservative press, which in recent weeks has devoted increasing column space to the subject.

Context

UK-Iranian ties looked visibly strained in late 2005 following a month in which accusations and counter-accusations were exchanged over the blasts which took place in Ahvaz (Iran) and Basra (Iraq) in October 2005. Keyhan, a hard-line daily called for the closure of UK embassy in Tehran after President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad accused London of being behind the deadly bombings in southern Iran (Keyhan, 15 October) .

At about the same time, Tehran students were considering a proposal to change the route of the annual rally marking the 1979 takeover of the US e mbassy as the student committee of the coordinating council of the Islamic Propagation Organization announced that the rally was to start at the "den of spies" - the former US embassy - and end at the British embassy (Iran daily in Persian, 15 October 2005). A number of Iranian MPs and university students criticized the Foreign Ministry for inviting a British trade delegation to discuss boosting bilateral trade relations (Siyasat-e Ruz, 11 and 15 October 2005). Hard-line students took every opportunity to stage a demonstration in front of the UK embassy in Ferdowsi Avenue in downtown Tehran (E'temad, 4 October 2005); and a bomb went off just outside British Airways office in north Tehran (Fars news agency, 2 November).

A garden of trees

Verbal attacks on the British embassy in Tehran took a sophisticated turn when another hard-line daily, Siyasat-e Ruz, started to question the British diplomatic mission's ownership over its - once - summer campound in Qolhak neighborhoud in northern Tehran.

The daily described the garden in a colourful and enticing way: "This garden of trees, which is generally known as the Qolhak Garden, is located in Shariati Street between Dowlat Street and the Sadr Bridge, and is as large as a few townships. Really, what secret does this garden's red brick wall, with several small and large, metal and wooden gates and sharp and cutting barbed wire, bear on its old chest? What interesting or uninteresting stories have the tall plane and pine trees of this garden, which are over a hundred years old, been witness to." (Siyasat-e Ruz, 6 November 2005).

The author of the report questions the ownership of the garden by writing: "According to the Foreign Ministry's sources, there is no document that indicates this garden belongs to the British."

A "graveyard for the killers of Iran's children"

The report calls the British War Cemetery located in the southern part of the garden "a graveyard for the killers of Iran's children" and questions the activities going in its northern section: "The British Organization for Iranian Studies and the British Cultural and Educational Centre are located on the northern side of this garden. The British Organization for Iranian Studies, by holding different sessions and publishing various articles, has been trying to study Iran and the domestic culture of Iranians. Of course, in view of the imperialistic and opportunistic nature of the British, it would be very credulous of us to believe that this organization's activities are merely limited to cultural affairs, and to ignore how the British MI6 uses the results of this organization's apparently cultural activities."

However, the report includes a passage that, perhaps unwantedly, contradicts its main argument: "In the lunar year 1251 [between 150 and 170 years ago], when Sir John Campbell was the British minister plenipotentiary in Iran, Mohammad Shah rented this garden, which used to be among the royal properties, to the British government, and the British embassy built its summer residence in Qolhak. After a while, the shah waived its rental income and tacitly put this garden at the disposal of Britain's political delegation free of charge."

In another report, under the heading "The British embassy must evacuate Qolhak Garden", nearly three months later, Siyasat-e Ruz wrote: "Transferring immovable properties to foreign citizens is subject to special regulations that must be observed precisely. Nobody, even the Iranian Shah, could have endowed the Qolhak Garden to the British embassy or sold it without compliance with legal criteria. Dr Qasem Sh'abani, a legal expert, stated the above-mentioned remark concerning the situation of the land of the Qolhak Garden, which has been occupied by the British embassy for many years." (Siyasat-e Ruz, 28 January 2006).

Majlis investigation

In the same issue of the newspaper, responding to a question about a Majlis investigation into the issue, Elham Aminzadeh, Majles representative from Tehran, said: "until now, an investigation into the status of the Qolhak Garden has not been discussed among Majles representatives but the issue may be put on the agenda."

One day later, Siyasat-e Ruz published two high-ranking clerics' religious verdicts on the issue: "Ayatollah Bahjat, a source of emulation, in reply to the inquiry of some religious and faithful youths on the endowment of Qolhak lands to British colonialists, said: 'Endowing public properties and private properties of others is not permitted unless the owner himself decides so.' Ayatollah Musavi-Ardebili stated: 'The Iranian king, whoever he might have been, did not have the right to endow the people's lands or public lands to other parties and the passage of time will not make the occupation of the land legitimate.' " (Siyasat-e Ruz, 30 January 2006).

The daily also reported that "The head of the Foundation for Protecting and Propagating Values of the Holy Defence, Gen Mir Feysal Baqerzadeh, has written a letter to State Public Prosecutor Dorri-Najafabadi in which he has asked for an end to be put to the British embassy 's occupation of the Qolhak Garden and its return to Iran."

People of Iran "the original owners"

Afarinesh daily, a conservative mouthpiece, wrote: Even though the Qajar king gave the land in question to the British, as stated in the letter of the Iranian court to the British Embassy, this land belongs to the government and was not the personal property of the Iranian king. Hence, the Iranian king did not have the right to transfer "someone else's property" to others. (Afarinesh, 31 January 2006)

Afarinesh concluded: "On this basis, the ownership of the British Embassy in regard to the Qolhak garden is only established if the original owners of the garden, who are the people of Iran, validate the transfer of this garden to the British through their representatives in the Majlis... according to legal and religious standards, the government of Iran may reverse the donation that has been made by the government of our country at that time and in this way simply return its ownership to the people of Iran."

Ayatollah Fazel-Lankarani, the highest ranking cleric approached by Siyasat-e Ruz, told the daily that he did not consider the granting of the property to the British government as religiously sanctioned, however, "legal authorities must determine the fate of this property," he noted. (Siyasat-e Ruz, 31 January 2006).

On the second of February Siyasat-e Ruz admitted that the Tehran municipality had declared that the British embassy has an official title deed for the Qolhak property. Nevertheless, the controversy is far from being over as the daily claims that the declaration made by the municipality could have been made "under the influence of a special agent." The daily warned: "If the municipality does not compensate for its mistake, the entire event will be disclosed." (Siyasat-e Ruz, 2 February 2006).

Source: Iranian briefing material from BBC Monitoring in English 13 Feb 06

Iran

13/02/2006 Iranian editor to hold news conference on cartoon contest

Excerpt from report by Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) website

Tehran, 13 February: A news conference on the international caricature contest entitled "What are the limits of the West's freedom of expression?" is to be held at 10 o'clock [0630 gmt] tomorrow morning at Hamshahri newspaper's conference hall.

According to ILNA's reporter, the editor in chief of Hamshahri newspaper, the head of Iran's House of Caricatures and the people in charge of running the contest will be at the news conference, which is to be attended by domestic and foreign reporters. [Passage omitted]

At tomorrow's news conference, Mohammad Reza Za'eri, editor in chief of Hamshahri newspaper, will speak about the paper's aims and programmes in holding this international contest.

Source: Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA), Tehran, in Persian 0946 gmt 13 Feb 06

13/02/2006 Iranian minister comments on blocking of BBC Persian website

Iran's Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Mohammad Husayn Saffar-Harandi held a news conference in Tehran on 13 February, the Iranian TV News Channel reported.

When asked about a move by the Iranian government to block access to BBC's Persian news website, Saffar-Harandi said: "This site was pursing an anti-Iranian agenda. Naturally, we don't provide such an open space to anyone who works against our national interest. Others make such consideration in their work, for example, when Sahar was banned from broadcasting in Europe."

Source: Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Tehran, in Persian 1409 gmt 13 Feb 06

13/02/2006 Iran demands apology from German daily for printing "insulting" football cartoon

Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA website

Berlin, 13 February, IRNA: The Iranian Embassy in Berlin on Monday [13 February] has demanded a full apology from a Berlin-based newspaper for depicting Iranian national football team players in an insulting cartoon.

In a statement addressed to chief editor of the daily Der Tagesspiegel, the embassy demanded a "written apology and measures aimed at rectifying this immoral act".

The communique added the offensive caricature had caused "outrage among the Iranian people".

The embassy stressed that sports was a tool "to promote solidarity and understanding among peoples and should not be used for political and other irresponsible means".

The controversial cartoon which was printed in the paper on Friday, shows the Iranian national football standing in a World Cup stadium with bombs strapped to the jerseys.

The cartoon depicts also German soldiers lining up in the stadium with a caption saying, 'This is why the German army has to be deployed at the World Cup stadiums!'.

Source: IRNA website, Tehran, in English 1800 gmt 13 Feb 06

IRAQ

13/02/2006 Iraq: Journalists call for government backing over media rights charter

Text of International Federation of Journalists press release on 13 February

Delegates representing journalists from around Iraq have agreed the key points in a new charter of rights for journalists and media and are calling on the new government in Baghdad to take action to protect journalists and to give priority to policies that will strengthen the freedom of media.

A conference of Iraqi journalists, editors and media experts, meeting in Egypt on Saturday [11 February], adopted a draft text for a charter of rights that will be discussed further within Iraqi media and which will then be converted into specific demands for laws that will strengthen journalists' rights.

The meeting, organized by the International Federation of Journalists in cooperation with UNESCO, was supported by the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate and was attended by journalists and experts from around the country.

A draft charter covering fundamental rights, editorial and ethical independence, the need for pluralism and open government, and basic demands for improved working conditions, was discussed and will now be finalized in meetings throughout the country.

The meeting agreed that the urgent priority was to convert these aspirations into concrete proposals for action that will be put before the new parliament.

The meeting also considered actions to create independent media monitoring bodies, a transparent process of media regulation and the need for positive actions to promote gender equality.

"There were many issues on the table," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, "but in the end none was more important than the need to create safe and secure working conditions and to end the killings of journalists and media staff. Eliminating all threats of violence and ending the security crisis is the top priority."

The IFJ has carried out an extensive programme of work in Iraq over the past three years, he said, and now it was time to develop a strategic approach that will take journalism beyond the crisis conditions that prevail in the country. "In the coming weeks we shall consider further steps in close collaboration with Iraqi colleagues," he said.

Source: International Federation of Journalists press release, Brussels, in English 13 Feb 06

JORDAN

13/02/2006 Jordanian editors held over cartoons released on bail

Excerpt from report by Muhammad Bin Husayn headlined "Editors in cartoon controversy released on bail", published in English by Jordan Times website on 13 February

Amman, 13 February: Editors of two local weekly tabloids were released on bail on Sunday [12 February], one week after being arrested for republishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Jihad Mumani, former editor-in-chief of Shihan and Hashim Khalidi, editor of Al-Mihwar weekly, were released from custody after their lawyer requested bail for the third time, said Nidal Mansur, head of the Centre for Defending the Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ).

Prosecutor General Sabri Rawashdeh had turned down two previous bail requests. The CDFJ issued a statement in which it described the decision as "a positive step to contain the crisis affecting media freedom in Jordan."

"This is an important step that strengthens our trust in Jordan's judiciary system and its independence," said Mansur.

Khalidi and Mumani spent their detention period in hospital after complaining of chest pains. Khalidi left hospital yesterday, while Mumani is scheduled to be discharged today. Both editors are scheduled to appear in the Conciliation Court on Feb.15 and 16 respectively. [Passage omitted]

Source: Jordan Times website, Amman, in English 13 Feb 06

PAKISTAN

13/02/2006 Pakistani journalists protest against Danish cartoons

Text of report by Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency

Hyderabad, 13 FebruaryJournalist community of Hyderabad held a protest demonstration in front of Hyderabad Press Club against the publication of blasphemous cartoons in the Danish and European Press. The journalists were holding banners and placard against the Western media.

Addressing the procession, President Hyderabad Press Club Iqbal Mallah said that the blasphemy could not said to be the freedom of press. General Secretary Hyderabad Press Club Muhammad Shahid Shaikh, Senior Journalists Azizullah Malik, Zaheer Ahmed, Ali Hassan, Mahesh Kumar, Akram Shahid, Adeel Pathan, Ali Wahid, M.H Khan, Anwer Sayal, Anjum Pervaiz Masih, Abbas Qasar, Nasir Shaikh, Hameed ur Rehman, Yousuf Naghori, Farhan Afandi, Faiz Khoso and others also participated in the protest demo.

Source: Associated Press of Pakistan news agency, Islamabad, in English 1259 gmt 13 Feb 06

AFGHANISTAN

14/02/2006 TV stations broadcasting "immoral" programmes may close down in Afghanistan

Text of report by Iranian radio from Mashhad on 14 February

[Presenter] Dear listeners, you are aware that since the establishment of the new government in Afghanistan, there has been a considerable increase in the number of newspapers and radio and television stations. Most radio and TV stations and newspapers are privately-owned and usually ignore regulations established by the relevant ministry.

Sometime ago, a commission was set up to monitor programmes of both government-owned and private media in Afghanistan. The commission was established because some stations have been broadcasting programmes which were against Islamic values. My colleague has arranged an interview with Ms Katreen Wida, a member of the media monitoring commission, commenting on the achievements of this commission.

[Katreen Wida] According to [Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism] Makhdum Rahin, the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism is not willing to interfere in the affairs of the press and the [electronic] media. As a result, about a year ago, the media monitoring commission was set up to monitor programmes of TV channels in Afghanistan and to point out those programmes which run counter to Islamic values or moral principles. The commission is made up of five members and Mr Rahin is the head of the commission.

Since the commission was set up, we held meetings with those responsible for TV stations in Afghanistan and asked them to avoid broadcasting programmes which contradict Afghan culture or Islamic values. Unfortunately, they have not paid attention to our requests or to the regulations.

After parliament was established, Mr Rahin was summoned to parliament and his attention was drawn to people's complaints regarding the broadcast of immoral programmes by Afghanistan-based TV stations.

Mr Rahin briefed MPs on the setting up of the commission and the number of meetings we had with the concerned TV channels or the number of warnings they were given.

After that, the commission decided to become stricter with those who violate the regulations. Sometime ago, the Media Monitoring Commission imposed a fine of 50,000 Afghanis [1,000 dollars] on Afghan TV [a private TV channel in Kabul] for airing immoral programmes.

Mr Ahmadzai is the director of this TV channel and he had been alerted to the issue many times. After he rejected the fine, Mr Ahmadzai was referred to court and the court will decide on the fate of this TV channel.

Mr Ahmadzai rejects restrictions on the media, saying that Afghanistan is now free and the government should give the media more freedom. However, we believe that Afghanistan is an Islamic and traditional country and people are not in favour of such programmes.

[Reporter] You talked about cash fines as a form of penalty. Do you think that you can improve the broadcast of these programmes with such penalties?

[Katreen Wida] We look at this as the first step and we believe that we should move step by step. We first asked them to come to meetings and asked them in a friendly manner. We briefed them about problems in Afghanistan, the many years of war as well as the importance of religion for people. Afghanistan is a country that believes in Islamic and traditional principles. In the second step, we imposed fines. But if they ignore our recommendations, we may shut down their TV station or put those who are responsible in prison.

Source: Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mashhad, in Dari 1330 gmt 14 Feb 06

INDONESIA

10/02/2006 Indonesian Muslim groups threaten tabloid for reprinting Danish cartoons

Text of unattributed report headlined: "Nabi cartoons appear in Gloria" by Indonesian newspaper Republika on 10 February; subheading as published:

Surabaya: A weekly tabloid published by the Jawa Pos Media Group, Gloria, has followed in the footsteps of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The Surabaya-based weekly, which is popular among the Christian community, reprinted the infamous Prophet Muhammad caricatures on 9 February 2006, in the face of worldwide protests.

"The tabloid adds fuel to the flames. They have 48 hours to clarify their motive," said Zulkarnaen, the chairperson of the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) branch in Surabaya, on Thursday 9 February.

Secretary of the Surabaya Islamic Youth Element (ELMIS), Arif AN, threatened to hold a protest at the publisher's office and at the homes of those responsible for the reprinting unless the weekly tabloid complies with its demands.

The controversial cartoons - one of them depicting Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban resembling a bomb - appeared in the "Peristiwa" ["What's Happening?"] column on page 10 of the tabloid.

Managing Director of the Jawa Pos Media Group, Dahlan Iskan, seemed astounded to learn that the cartoons had been reprinted. "Are you sure they were the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad? I haven't seen them," he revealed via mobile phone from a remote area in Kalimantan.

Dahlan said he would hold an editors' meeting after returning to Surabaya in a couple of days, but would not reveal what would happen to those responsible for allowing the cartoons to be reprinted in the weekly tabloid.

Dahlan surprisingly added that the edition had been withdrawn before the Islamic organizations lodged their protest. However, the edition displaying the controversial cartoons was still being sold at midnight.

Breaking the law

Following the reprinting of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons in the weekly tabloid Peta, the Managing Director and Managing Editor of the Bekasi-based tabloid have faced legal charges. The Bekasi Police Criminal Investigation Division Chief, Commissioner Suwondo Nainggolan, said that Imam Trikarsonohadi and Abdul Wahab Abdi were named as official suspects.

The Press Council said the publication of the insulting cartoons broke the journalism code of ethics. "The religious laws have clearly been broken. Religious blasphemy has occurred," Leo Batubara of the Press Council told Antara yesterday 9 February.

After urging the Indonesian media to learn from the mistakes of Denmark's Jyllands-Posten, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono reminded it that press freedom was not absolute and that expressions of cultural disdain were destructive.

Source: Republika, Jakarta, in Indonesian 10 Feb 06

Indonesia

14/02/2006 Indonesia: Ban on overseas news broadcasts being ignored

Text of report in English by Indonesian newspaper Tempo website on 14 February

The ban on the relay of overseas news broadcasts has come into force. However, some stations continue to ignore it.

At first glance there is no change in the Journal of VOA (Voice of America) aired by Metro TV. From the studio in Washington, DC, USA, Malay-faced newscasters continue to greet viewers in Indonesia at 5:05am [local time]. However, since the beginning of last week, the information programme from Uncle Sam has been a recorded event instead of a live broadcast.

Metro TV made the change following the enforcement of four government regulations on broadcasting institutes. One of the provisions in Government Regulation No 50/2005 stipulates that private broadcasting institutes shall be prohibited from relaying regular programmes from overseas broadcasting agencies. This regulation also bans the relay of musical events with indecent appearances and sporting competitions with sadistic scenes.

Originally, Metro TV aired the daily programme transmitted by VOA live. With the new rule, the television station, which is owned by Surya Paloh, did not shift the VOA Journal schedule, but rather it asked VOA to broadcast the news an hour earlier so that it could have enough time to undertake recording and selection. "As an institution, we have to abide by the government stipulation," said publication manager of Metro TV Henny Puspitasari.

Henny revealed that his station had anticipated the application of the new decree. For a month, Metro TV and VOA discussed the journal's format change and broadcasting technique. One segment omitted is the interactive dialogue with viewers. "There's no problem with this adjustment," added Henny.

But not all studios have readily accepted the fresh formula. Several radio stations in Jakarta continue to air their packages from VOA or the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). Elshinta is one news radio service that continues to relay programmes from the two foreign broadcasting agencies. "No executive instruction has been issued yet on the relay ban," said an Elshinta crew member.

Broadcasting studios also have different interpretations of the new regime. The Chief Editor of Media Nusantara Citra Networks, Driantama, said there was no rule banning the relay of news reporting from abroad. The government regulation only limits the overseas newscast relay to 5 per cent a day. "I've consulted our legal affairs division," assured Driantama, the boss of Radio Trijaya.

Indonesian Broadcasting Commission member Amelia Hezkasari Day described the different perceptions and attitudes of private broadcasting stations as a reflection of the weakness of this rule. "The relay prohibition is only an example of the various flaws in the government regulation," she pointed out.

Amelia indicated that the government was over-paranoid about the contents of foreign reports. Private broadcasting institutes can still seek loopholes in the regulation by whatever means or - in more extreme cases - ignore the rule. In any case it appears only Jakarta stations are being targeted. What about the broadcasting studios in regions, which frequently escape central monitoring action?

The foreign broadcast relay ban was indeed intended to allow local media the opportunity to conduct editing or checking of the substance of news transmitted. "In this way, it can be accounted for if complaints are lodged," said Director-General of Information, Office of the Minister of Communications and Information Widiadnyana Merati.

Chairman of the House of Representatives Sub-commission on Information Dedy Djamaluddin Malik, also referred to the necessity for local media to be responsible for the contents of broadcasts because relaying news is their internal policy. Henny had a different understanding. In her view, news suppliers should be responsible if any problem arises in the future. "But both parties should go on checking with and reminding each other," she maintained.

Source: Tempo website, Jakarta, in English 14 Feb 06

14/02/2006 Indonesia: Broadcasting conflict leaves investors in limbo

Text of report in English by Indonesian newspaper The Jakarta Post website on 14 February

An ongoing dispute between the Information and Communications Ministry and the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) about which institution has the right to issue broadcasting licences has left the industry in limbo.

The conflict began during President Megawati Soekarnoputri's regime when the 2003 Broadcasting Law was passed, establishing the KPI and giving it the right to issue television and radio licences.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government later issued four regulations that gave the ministry the right to issue broadcasting licences. The KPI, with support from some industry players, is still contesting the regulations, which did not come into force until 5 February this year.

North Sumatra commission official Arya said the dispute meant his office was unable to process a backlog of applications for broadcasting licences and set new frequencies.

"It is us who live in the regions who are suffering the most from the new laws," he said. Four government regulations transfer the power to allocate electronic media frequencies and issue broadcasting licences from the KPI to the ministry.

The commission says it will continue issuing broadcasting permits, as mandated by the law establishing it.

"The KPI will continue to hear complaints about broadcasting content and proceed with issuing broadcasting permits," deputy chairman Sinansari Ecip said Monday [13 February]. The decision was made in a meeting of commission executives on Sunday, he said.

Sinansari said the KPI would request the Supreme Court review the four regulations.

Information and Communications Minister Sofyan Djalil said the KPI was welcome to file a judicial review, however, he stressed the government would continue enforcing the regulations.

"Let the Supreme Court decide," he said. The regulations provided legal certainty in the broadcasting sector, Sofyan said.

The commission and broadcasters have raised concerns the regulations would threaten the media's freedom of expression because they granted excessive powers to the Information and Communications Ministry.

Commission member and University of Indonesia communications lecturer Sasa Djuarsa Sendjaja criticized the ministry's response, saying the legislation was deliberately designed with big media bosses in mind.

"What do they mean by legal certainty - is this certainty for the capital owners? What about legal certainty for the public interest?" Sasa said.

Sofyan countered by saying it would be impossible for the broadcasting industry to run without capital.

In an earlier ruling on the matter, the Constitutional Court said the 2003 Broadcasting Law was not against the Constitution.

It said the powers to issue technical regulations on broadcasting should be granted to the KPI.

Source: The Jakarta Post website, Jakarta, in English 14 Feb 06

IRAN

07/02/2006 Iran press: Commentary explains blocking of BBC Persian website

Text of "First View", commentary by Esma'il Firuzi: "Filtering the BBC website; the result of interference in Iran's internal affairs", published by the Iranian newspaper Hemayat on 7 February

The BBC's Persian-language website, Wednesday 25 January 2006, in an item titled "Blocking the BBC's Persian site; why and at whose expense?" challenged the Iranian government's measure in filtering this site.

The writer of the item, Jamshid Barzegar, by twisting the facts and distracting the mind from this website's overt and covert acts of meddling in Iran's internal affairs, has tried to relate the Iranian government's action to Iran's isolation and the nuclear issue.

While there is no instance throughout the contemporary history of Iran at which we had even one good feeling about dealing with the British, it would be simplistic, if not foolish, of us to have an optimistic view of the British news service.

In a rational view of the Persian-language BBC's track record, we can see that its news policy is based on gaining the trust of politicians, intellectuals and students. Of course, there are specific programmes intended for each of these groups.

Focusing on one issue, while covering a large variety of topics, and drawing the same conclusion from all the reports and analyses on this website are methods that have, in many cases, effectively managed to drive the Iranian authorities from the position of questioning to that of answering, or at least play an effective role in determining the subject matter in political and media circles.

Seyyed Sowlat Mortazavi, the managing editor of the daily Hemayat, earlier talked to the correspondent of ISCA News in this regard, and said: "The mission of the BBC's Persian-language network in Iran is to fabricate news, create crises and spread rumours in Iran and in other countries."

He believes that Britain maintains its presence in regions that have valuable resources in two ways: either overtly, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, or indirectly and covertly, by means of training spies and learning things from inside those countries.

This website's approach to Iran's bid to acquire nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is one of the cases that clearly shows this news service is trying to frighten our politicians and parliamentarians of the threats made by the West.

Reviewing some of the headlines and excerpts from the items of the BBC's Persian website in the past few days clearly substantiates this claim.

Sowing dissension between Hashemi and Ahmadinezhad with the pretext of the nuclear issue

The BBC's Persian website, Monday 30 January 2006, in an item titled "The prospects of Rafsanjani's effort in Iran's nuclear crisis", takes advantage of the difference of opinion between Hashemi and Ahmadinezhad and tries to set these two influential revolutionary figures against each other.

Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who apparently had meetings with most of the renowned clerics living in Qom, except for Ayatollah Hoseyn'ali Montazeri, an eminent source of emulation and a critic of the Islamic system of Iran, pointed to the conduct of European countries vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear case and said: "They are insane, greedy and bullying, and they are an example of true Satan. We didn't do anything to anyone, but they kept escalating the situation to this point. Of course, we ourselves haven't been that innocent either."

The last sentence of Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani apparently refers to certain behaviours of Mahmud Ahmadinezhad's administration, which he believes have further aggravated Iran's nuclear crisis. Nonetheless, it isn't clear what solution Rafsanjani would propose to control the crisis unfolding between Iran and the West.

Efforts to incite regional disputes

The BBC's Persian section is trying to exploit India's weakness against America's pressures in deterring it from buying Iranian gas, in order to affect the regional peace with a crisis. For this purpose, it delicately tries to put the Iranian audience in a position of premature decision-making, thereby leading the Iranian side towards cancelling or losing interest in Iran's important gas contracts with Pakistan and India. This website, on Saturday, 4 February 2006, wrote:

"The pipeline, once hoped to help establish peace between the two large nuclear powers of Asia, now seems to have fallen victim to Iran's nuclear debate, itself."

This website portrays the situation in a way as if the subject of this deal were already forgotten, and that we should stop thinking about it even as a bilateral contract between Iran and Pakistan. Meanwhile, neither the Iranian nor the Indian authorities insist on cancelling this enormous deal. Perhaps, this effort of the British government should be viewed in the same context as their other acts of sabotage where they try to prevent the formation of regional treaties and mutual interests in the Middle East.

The nuclear debate's timetable with a pessimistic orientation

On Thursday, 12 January 2006, the timetable of Iran's nuclear debate with a pessimistic orientation, aimed at exaggerating and overstating Iran's efforts to achieve its absolute right, was placed on the BBC's Persian-language website. The writer of the note, Parsa Piltan, has a mission to convince the audience that all the excessive demands and the decisions being made against Iran are due to a certain period of inconsistencies and the Iranian authorities' disregard for international warnings.

Of course, the malicious acts of the centres affiliated with Zionism are not confined to these few cases, which are merely small examples of this approach. However, we should admit that it wouldn't be possible to confront all the plots only by means of filtering, and that we should consider other methods, such as strengthening our domestic news sites by absorbing writers from all around the world. We should keep in mind that many of the Iranian writers of this website were driven by enormous pays and hopes for a better life, to become hired writers.

And the last question for Mr Barzegar, the respected writer of BBC; how come you stayed silent about the closure of the Al-Manar network?

Was this frail voice the only one not to be heard in the free world of information?

Source: Hemayat, Tehran, in Persian 7 Feb 06, pp1,2

PAKISTAN

14/02/2006 Pakistan anti-cartoon protesters attack Norwegian firm, 18 arrested

Text of report by Javed Afridi entitled: "Protesters go berserk in Peshawar; Mob damages public property, signboards; Telenor franchise in Attock set on fire"; published by Pakistani newspaper Daily Times website on 14 February

Peshawar: Police on Monday [13 February] arrested 18 protesters after thousands of students attacked public and private property and burned several shops here to protest the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in some European countries.

The police tear-gassed around 5,000 enraged students who pulled down dozens of signboards of a Norwegian cellular firm. The demonstration was the biggest in the city since the cartoons, considered blasphemous by Muslims, were reprinted in some Western newspapers. "We stayed away because the issue is very sensitive and any attempt to stop these people from expressing themselves against the issue will aggravate the situation," a senior police official told Daily Times on condition of anonymity.

Norwegian firm Telenor's property was the obvious target of the demonstrators who pulled down all promotional signboards with the Telenor logo and messages from shops, police and eyewitnesses said. The protestors became unruly after they were barred from marching towards Governor's House. "They then headed towards the Edwards College and threw stones at the recently constructed portion of the historical Edwards College," eyewitnesses said.

Besides inflicting damage to the college building, a number of college students also suffered injuries, a senior college teacher said. Later, the protestors attacked the Peshawar Press Club smashing its windowpanes, damaging the club's reception and offices of the president and general-secretary, the club said in a statement. "Police contingent remained silent spectators during the attack," the club management said. The students, also joined by members of the general public, then divided themselves into several small groups with each group containing a thousand demonstrators and took to different streets in the cantonment area. "One group reached Sadder bazaar at around 10.30 a.m. [local time] and began smashing windowpanes of several shops without any attempt from police to protect public property from being attacked," Muhammad Noor, a shopkeeper who had pulled down the shutter, said. "Not a single policeman tried to stop the mob, which targeted every public installation including traffic signals and streetlights," he said.

The students were joined by the Mobile Dealers Association of Bilour Plaza and later by every one present at the venue and an organized campaign was then launched against the signboards of Telenor.

Police started firing teargas shells after more than two dozens of the signboards were razed to the ground and torched. Police arrested 18 protesters but it was not clear what charges they were booked under. Meanwhile, protesters set fire to a shop selling products by Telenor in Attock, Reuters quoted Norway's largest telecom company spokesman as saying. "On Sunday [12 February] an outlet in Attock selling Telenor products was set on fire," Telenor spokesman Espen Tuman Johnsn said. "There are some SMSs going around urging people to boycott Danish and Norwegian goods in general and some about Telenor in particular," he said.

Johnson said the boycott campaign had had little impact on Telenor's operations in Pakistan. Telenor's fully owned Pakistan subsidiary has around a seven per cent market share and about 1.2 million subscribers. Telenor has 11 Norwegian nationals working in Pakistan but said it had no plans to pull any of them out of the country.

Source: Daily Times website, Lahore, in English 14 Feb 06

Pakistan

14/02/2006 Pakistan students hold anti-cartoon protest

Text of report by Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency

Islamabad, 14 February: Students of different colleges held a protest march from Peshawar Mor to Diplomatic Enclave on Tuesday [14 February] to protest against the publication of blasphemous sketches in some European newspapers. They chanted slogans against the blasphemous act.

Source: Associated Press of Pakistan news agency, Islamabad, in English 1148 gmt 14 Feb 06

14/02/2006 Pakistan legislators stage anti-cartoon protest

Text of report by Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency

Islamabad, 14 February: The parliamentarians, comprising treasury and opposition benches, Tuesday [14 February] staged a march to protest against publication of the blasphemous sketches in newspapers of some European countries.

The members of the both upper and lower houses of the parliament marched through Constitution Avenue from Parliament House to the diplomatic enclave.

Some of the members were holding placards and banners inscribed with slogans to pay respect to all religions.

Deputy Speaker National Assembly, Sardar Mohammad Yaqub, [all subsequent names as received] Chief Whip in National Assembly, Sardar Nasrullah Dareshak, Sanaullah Mastikhail, Firdos Ashiq Awan, Rai Mansab Ali, Rai Azizullah, Rozina Tufail, Makhdoom Ahmed Alam Anwar, Ali Gillani, Safdar Shakir, Rais Munir Ahmed, represented the treasury benches.

While opposition leaders Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, Amin Fahim, Ch. Aitzaz, Syed Khurshid Shah, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Ch. Nisar Ali, Ms Tehmina Daultana, Begum Ishrat Ashraf, and others took part in the protest.

Talking to the newspersons, Deputy Speaker National Assembly Sardar Mohammad Yaqub said, Islam teaches us peace and brotherhood and Muslims have respect for all the prophets and religions.

"In response, the Muslims also expect equal respect for the Holy Prophet peace be upon him, by the followers of others religions," he added.

He said letters will be sent to the foreign missions in the federal capital to register our protest.

The deputy Speaker said the National Assembly has adopted resolution condemning the blasphemous act by the Western media.

The opposition leaders also condemned publication of blasphemous sketches in Western media.

They urged the Western countries to take effective measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future.

The protest concluded after "dua" [prayers] offered by Hafiz Hussain Ahmed.

Source: Associated Press of Pakistan news agency, Islamabad, in English 1148 gmt 14 Feb 06

14/02/2006 Two killed in anti-cartoon protests in Lahore - Pakistan TV

Excerpt from report by Pakistan's PTV World television on 14 February

Members from both houses of parliament held a protest rally against the publication of sacrilegious caricatures in newspapers of some European countries. [passage omitted] And protest demonstrations were also held in Lahore today against the publication of blasphemous cartoons in some European newspapers. All business centres were affected and two persons died in the protest demonstrations.

Well, people belonging to different walks of life participated in the processions taken out in several areas of the city. Protesters were holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans against the blasphemous act.

Protest demonstrations were also held in other cities of the country.

Source: PTV World, Islamabad, in English 1300 gmt 14 Feb 06

14/02/2006 Pakistan Punjab chief minister condemns anti-cartoon violence

Excerpt from report by Pakistan's PTV World television on 14 February

Members from both houses of parliament held a protest rally against the publication of sacrilegious caricatures in newspapers of some European countries. [passage omitted] And during protest demonstrations in Lahore against (?the) publication of derogatory caricatures in some European newspapers, miscreants tied to set on fire some rooms in the Punjab Assembly, banks, and private buildings. Two persons were killed as bank guards opened fire to disperse demonstrators.

Chief Minister, Punjab, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi told Pakistan Television that action will be taken against those who tried to set some official and private buildings on fire. He said being Muslims, we all condemn the derogatory act of the Danish newspapers. He said President Gen Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, and PML [Pakistan Muslim League] President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain have already condemned the blasphemous publications. He said peaceful demonstration is the right of everyone, but no-one will be allowed to take the law in their hands. He said Rangers have been deployed and police reinforced in the city, and the situation is under control. The chief minister said that those who turned peaceful demonstration into a rampage are in fact the enemies of the country and Islam.

Source: PTV World, Islamabad, in English 1500 gmt 14 Feb 06

14/02/2006 Pakistan party leader says Denmark apology can defuse cartoon crisis

Text of report by Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency

Islamabad, 14 February: Secretary-General Pakistan Muslim League and Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed Tuesday [14 February] urged Denmark to apologize to the Muslims to defuse the uproar over the publication of blasphemous cartoons.

Talking to a delegation of American and Asian journalists from Jefferson Fellowship Programme of East West Centre, USA, he said the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten that first published blasphemous sketches, earlier, in April 2003, refused to publish a sketch about Jesus Christ, saying it would hurt the feelings of Christians. No European newspaper dares joke about Holocaust, he added.

Mushahid urged the international community to come forward and play its role in defusing the situation.

"If freedom of expression is 'sacred' to the West, so is the persona of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and this issue is simply not negotiable," he added.

An apology from Denmark would defuse the cartoon crisis, he said, and said the refusal by the Danish prime minister to meet Muslim ambassadors escalated the crisis.

He said Pakistan should take the initiative to immediately convene a conference of Muslim representatives and European political, religious and media leaders in Geneva or Brussels with a one-point agenda: how to combat Islamophobia and have laws that treat it at par with anti-Semitism.

He said protests in Muslim states ought to be peaceful and no party should politicize this volatile situation.

He said the Muslims feel that there are double standards in the Western world and they are being discriminated due to their religion. There is a growing sense of Muslim victimization due to a pattern of Muslim-bashing.

Senator Mushahid said the nuclear issue of Iran should be resolved through dialogue without resorting to sanctions or threat of use of force. Similarly, he said, victory of Hamas was an expression of democracy in Palestine. He said if East Timor can be granted freedom, the people of Kashmir should also be given the right of freedom.

Mushahid Hussain also mentioned human rights violation of Muslims in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghurayb jail, and now the latest video showing shameful abuse of Iraqi teenagers by British troops.

Source: Associated Press of Pakistan news agency, Islamabad, in English 1510 gmt 14 Feb 06

14/02/2006 Pakistani minister orders restructuring of national broadcasters

Text of report by Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency

Islamabad, 14 February: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz Tuesday [14 February] asked Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to take steps for complete restructuring and modernization of Pakistan Television (PTV) and Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) to prepare them to meet the emerging challenges of globalization and proliferation of media and to compete with private channels effectively.

Chairing a meeting at the Prime Minister House this evening the prime minister appreciated Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the departments working under it for their performance.

"The ministry has done a credible job despite its limited resources and the difficult circumstances facing it," the prime minister said.

The prime minister said media today is playing a powerful role in setting trends, creating images, forming perceptions, changing attitudes etc. Pakistan PTV and PBC should enhance their capacity professionally and in terms of technology to meet the new challenges and also to portray a true image of the country.

"PBC and PTV will be reinvigorated and transformed into vibrant organizations with emphasis on up gradation of technology, induction of qualified professionals and redesigning of the programme content," the prime minister said.

The prime minister asked the ministry to expedite setting up of Media City in Islamabad and said that government is ready to provide the necessary resources for it.

The prime minister, reviewed extension of PTV signals to various parts of the country and, in principal, approved installation of a TV booster in tribal areas to provide a better viewer ship to the people of the area.

While reviewing the projection and image-building of Pakistan abroad, the prime minister said that Ministry of Information should have its presence in all the major capitals and if required more press sections may be setup.

The prime minister also reviewed the performance of Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), establishment of Press Council, implementation status of e-Government Technology and establishment of National University of Media Sciences etc. He asked Ministry of Information to look into the possibility of affiliating the proposed university with an existing reputable university.

The meeting was attended among others by Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, minister for information and broadcasting, Ms Anisa Zeb Thairkheli, minister of state for information and broadcasting, secretary [of the] Ministry of Information and senior officials.

Source: Associated Press of Pakistan news agency, Islamabad, in English 1711 gmt 14 Feb 06

PHILIPPINES

13/02/2006 Philippine commentary links furore over cartoons to "subservient" Islamic press

Text of commentary by Amando Doronila from the "Analysis" column" headlined: "RP may be Drawn Into Debate Over Cartoons" in English by Philippine newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer website on 13 February; subheadings as published:

Filipino Muslims have joined the uproar of the Islamic world in its violent protest against the publication by a Danish newspaper in September last year of 12 cartoons which Muslims angrily claimed insulted the prophet Mohammed. They burned a replica of the Danish flag outside a mosque in Manila's Quiapo district, demanded an apology from the Danish prime minister and threatened to torch the Danish Embassy.

The outburst of Islamic rage in Manila was not an isolated incident. It was a segment of the worldwide chain reaction to the cartoons that have widened the chasm between the Islamic world and Western democracies since the bombing of New York by Islamic extremists on 11 Sept. 2001.

Denmark's Prime Minister Andres Fogh Rasmusssen refused to buckle down to demands of Islamic countries to apologize, saying the publication touched on the issue of freedom of expression that is central to democracy. But he warned: "We are today facing a global crisis that has the potential to escalate beyond the control of governments."

One of the 12 cartoons depicts Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, another shows him holding a sword with two women in Islamic dress, and another depicts him as standing in paradise telling a parade of suicide bombers, "Stop, stop. We have run out of virgins."

Muslims considered the satirical cartoons blasphemous. The offending cartoons have sparked a global firestorm that has now gone beyond diplomatic protests and have sparked a violent chain reaction. To describe the new conflict as a confirmation of Samuel P. Huntington's thesis of "a clash of civilizations" glosses over the clash of values between the Islamic world and the Western democracies not only over freedom of expression, but also over religious tolerance.

Although none of the Philippine newspapers, as far as I can determine, published the offending cartoons, the Philippine press cannot detach itself from this burning debate over press freedom, as Filipino editors are in the business of deciding each day what stories and cartoons to publish.

At some point, our newspapers will find themselves embroiled in this controversy. The controversy polarized much of the European press behind the Danish newspaper in solidarity to defend press freedom.

Conflict starts

The conflict started on 30 Sept. 2005, when the Danish paper, Jyllands-Posten, published the controversial cartoons. On 20 Oct., a Muslim ambassador complained to the Danish prime minister and demanded an apology. On 26 Jan. 2005, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador and boycotted Danish goods.

On 30 Jan., gunmen raided the European Union delegation office in Gaza, demanding an apology. On 1 Feb., Die Welt in Germany, France Soir in Paris, La Stampa in Italy, El Periodico in Spain, and Volkskrant in the Netherlands published the cartoons. On 7 Feb., Iran cut all trade ties with Denmark.

Three cartoonists involved in the project, first intended as a book for Muslim children to contribute to integration, have received death threats. We must consider that Denmark has a long tradition of vigorous, satirical cartooning.

France Soir, in publishing the cartoon, said, "Enough lessons from these reactionary bigots."

In Indonesia, protesters attacked the Danish Embassy. Europeans and their diplomats received threats in Islamic countries. The more the Islamic governments stepped up diplomatic and trade pressure, the more did the European countries closed ranks behind the issue of press freedom and Denmark.

The Indonesian foreign ministry, in a statement after the storming of the Danish Embassy in Jakarta, said: "It involves the whole Islamic world vis-a-vis Denmark." Vis-a-vis the trend of Islamophobia, the Senate in Pakistan passed a resolution, saying "this outrageous and provocative campaign cannot be justified in the name of freedom of expression and of the press."

Right to publish

The European newspapers stoutly defended their decision to publish. The front page of France Soir carried the headline: "Yes, we have the right to caricature God," accompanied by a cartoon depicting figures from the Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Buddhist faiths on a cloud. The Christian figure was shown saying, "Don't complain, Mohammed, we've all been caricatured here."

Die Welt reprinted the original caricature and its editor in chief said: "It's at the very core of our culture that the most sacred things can be subjected to laughter." This is in the light of the fact that Christ has not been spared ridicule by a democratic press. The publication of some Western newspapers of "Piss Christ," of the controversial 1989 photograph of Christ on a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine (by the American photographer Andres Soriano), caused a furor. The Archbishop of Melbourne led an unsuccessful court suit to have it banned. The picture did not spark a wave of protests among Christians.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy echoed the views of many in the West when he said he preferred an "excess of cartooning than an excess of censorship."

Some observers have noted that Denmark, a small European country, have borne the brunt of the Islamic reaction and have asked why some key Islamic governments had not been as violent in reacting to Denmark as they had been to the big nations with retaliatory powers, such as the United States after it invaded Iraq, and France, which has strategic interests in the Middle East.

Subservient press

The actions taken by many of the Islamic countries stem from the fact that they are mostly authoritarian societies where the press is subservient. Their presumption is that the press in democracies ought to hew close to government policy. Hence, their diplomatic and trade pressures are focused on governments.

Most Australian newspapers didn't publish the cartoons. They took a middle ground position expressed by the Melbourne Age editorial. It said: "The Danish cartoons were neither insightful nor effective, just stereotypical smears. At the level of content, there was little justification to run them. Even given their curiosity value, such material carries a responsibility to consider whether the publication outweighs any like offence. Having the freedom to publish does not mean we must publish to prove it."

However, the same editorial said: "Any newspaper ought to be offended, by the use of threats or violence to dictate what may be published: an intimidated media is no longer a free media."

It concluded: "The reaction to the 12 obscure cartoons is evidence of the deeply damaged relationship between the West and Islam."

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer website, in English 13 Feb 06

AFGHANISTAN

15/02/2006 Afghan official promises protection as journalists complain of attacks in west

Text of report by Afghan independent Sada-ye Jawan Radio on 15 February

[Presenter] A number of journalists were intimidated during the recent violence in Herat. The head of the Association of Independent Afghan Journalists called on the government to watch over the safety of independent journalists at a news conference in Kabul yesterday.

Here is my colleague Shoaib Tanha with a detailed report on this:

[Correspondent] Two unidentified gunmen attacked the local reporter of Pajhwok Afghan News Agency in Herat. The Association of Independent Afghan Journalists has expressed concern over the upsurge in violence against journalists in this province.

Rahimollah Samandar, the head of the independent journalists' association, told a news conference that preliminary results of investigations indicated that the two attackers were in military uniforms.

[Samandar in Dari] Conditions are very bad for journalists in Herat. They frequently receive threats. At 1930 hours [local time] tonight [14 Feb], Sarwaryar, a reporter of Pajhwok news agency, was attacked by two unidentified gunmen who were riding motorbikes.

They fired four shots at Sarwaryar. Fortunately, he survived the attack but his hand was injured and the windows of his car were broken.

[Correspondent] Not only were Pajhwok news agency reporters threatened or attacked in Herat, but two reporters of Tolo and Ariana TV have also been frequently intimidated by armed men this month.

Sarwaryar said that he was pleased to be safe and also about his state of health. He said:

[Sarwaryar in Dari] Luckily, I survived an attack on me two nights ago. However, I was shot in the hand. I have police protection and I feel safe. The police are also guarding my house. I would like to thank the police for keeping an eye on my safety.

[Correspondent] Security officials say that they are always trying to create a safe environment in which journalists can operate in the country. The Interior Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Yusof Stanizai, said that security organizations would take immediate action whenever they received information regarding any threat to journalists.

[Stanizai in Pashto overlaid with Dari translation] Afghan security officials are always prepared to cooperate with anyone who is receiving threats or whose life is at risk.

[Correspondent] A journalist in Herat Province yesterday informed the police that he had received death threats. The police gave him protection until he assured them that he was safe.

Afghan journalists believe that a number of armed men and government officials in remote parts of the country still do not tolerate any media criticism of themselves.

Source: Sada-ye Jawan Radio, Herat, in Dari 1030 gmt 15 Feb 06

IRAN

13/02/2006 Letter of complaint to Iran on blocking of BBC Persian website to be discussed

Text of report by Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) website

Tehran, 13 February: The occurrence of software problems in the filtering carried out by the Communications Technology Company (Data) caused disruptions in terms of users' access or lack of access to some Internet sites yesterday.

Speaking to ILNA, Engineer Mas'ud Fateh, deputy head of the public relations office of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry, said: The occurrence of these disruptions led to the BBC's Persian website being accessible to some users yesterday, but the site continues to be on the filtering list of the committee in charge of deciding which websites should be filtered and the filtering of the site has not been lifted.

He added: The written complaint from the site's directors has been put at the disposal of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry and, in the next few days, it will be put at the disposal of the committee in charge of deciding which websites should be filtered, so that the committee members can discuss it and decide whether the filtering should continue or be lifted.

Source: Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA), Tehran, in Persian 0922 gmt 13 Feb 06

14/02/2006 Iran press: Foreign media "war" seeks to weaken Iran economy, morale

Text of commentary by Mohammad Reza Sabz'alipur, head of the Iran World Trade Centre: "The media war beside the military war", published by the Iranian newspaper E'temad website on 14 February

The war by foreign media and news agencies against Iran and publication of false reports, aim to strike a blow against Iran's economy and undermine the spirit of our businessmen and domestic industrialists and investors.

In the not-so-distant past, countries would only fight each other militarily, without a second option. But a new method has emerged in recent years that is less costly but has a more destructive impact than military methods.

Most of those with money and power in the world, especially the Jews and Americans, initiate or purchase large television networks to stabilize and increase their power and the scope of their empires. Using radio or satellite waves they enter into the private realm of homes in other countries, and broadcasting their vulgar culture and with the publication of false or distorted reports, they strike effective blows against governments that oppose them.

Given the contradictory and double-standard treatment by some foreign media and news agencies of Iranians and Iran's Islamic government in the post-revolutionary years, some world media still do respect impartiality and proceed to broadcast accurate news and acceptable programmes. But a significant part of the media is in a constant state of conflict with Iran, and will resort to all means and shirk no effort or pathway to implement set plans and pave the way for the entry and presence of foreign governments.

The entry of powerful foreign individuals and governments into our country through satellite emissions has political and economic goals. On the one hand there are the various commercials and advertisements for foreign manufactured and commercial goods, designed to encourage their purchase by people and bring huge profits to large companies and cartels. The second dimension to this news and information onslaught is the publication of false reports and exaggeration of certain domestic weaknesses or the scope of foreign power and threats, in order to fuel political crises in our country and attain certain goals. Most of these visual and print media work under the umbrella of Zionists, and as we have seen in past years, they have sought to weaken public morale, promote disturbances and strike various blows by selecting various subjects inside Iran (such as the presence of political differences during the imposed war, or the parliamentary or presidential elections, or a dozen other examples); fortunately they have failed in most cases.

In the past two years, the Iranian government has been the target of partisan and political pressures abroad designed to prevent it accessing nuclear science or making peaceful use of nuclear power. The conduit for such pressures on the people and government of Islamic Iran has been several foreign media and news agencies that are lobbied by the Zionists, and which have waged an unrelenting psychological and political war against Iran. They have sought to attain their material and immaterial aims by exaggerating the power of opposing countries, repeating the threats proffered by the American government and the three European states, and focusing on the matter of our country's dossier being referred to the Security Council and subsequent imposition of economic and political sanctions. They are trying this way to strike at the country's economy and paint a picture of political insecurity in Iran, and thus to weaken the morale of investors and industrialists and encourage them to invest in other counties.

While they have not succeeded so far in this doing, a small number of Iranian investors, influenced by this media war, have moved a part of their capital to other countries. State officials must pay particular attention to the fact that the psychological war waged by foreign media and satellite networks has had and will have more damaging effects than military wars. If this is neglected or overlooked and there is no adequate response, we can expect unforeseen consequences. During the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union, the Reagan administration started a debate on what was termed Star Wars, and American publicity on the subject became so extensive worldwide that the entire world including the Soviet Union came to believe that the Americans had such power and weapons, which weakened Soviet statesmen, and led to the disappearance of the former superpower from the world map and from people's minds. After the fragmentation of Soviet Union into 17 successor states, it became clear that the American government never had such a weapon, and that this was nothing but a dream broadcast and publicized around the world by American media and news agencies. But the pressure managed to bring down the Soviet Union.

Source: E'temad website, Tehran, in Persian 14 Feb 06

15/02/2006 Iran: Hardline paper says BBC downplays revolution rallies

Text of report by Iranian newspaper Kayhan website on 15 February

BBC Television continues to downplay the extent of the rally by tens of millions of Iranians on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

Following the criticism of the network's coverage of the massive turnout of Iranians to commemorate their victory over tyranny, support the nuclear policies of the Islamic Republic and condemn the repeated insults to the prophet of Islam by the Western press, the editor of this British medium issued a statement, saying: The BBC's report said more than 100,000 people participated in the rallies!

The network insists on downplaying the number of the demonstrators when only in Tehran three million people participated in the rallies.

Source: Kayhan website, Tehran, in Persian 15 Feb 06

15/02/2006 Iranian Esfahan TV coverage of anniversary events, nuclear issue

During the week 6-12 February, the people of Iran were marking the Ten Days of Dawn (1-11 February), the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. This week also coincided with annual mourning ceremonies for Imam Husayn's martyrdom. In their programming for the week, the Iranian TV networks, including Esfahan Provincial TV, had to be sensitive about the overlap between an occasion to celebrate and an occasion to mourn - caused by the fact that the revolution anniversary is based on the solar calendar, while Imam Husayn's martyrdom is based on the lunar calendar. Though Iranian TV schedules do not change drastically on happy or sad occasions, the audience is sensitive and conscious of even small changes and nuances in programming, particularly when these relate to religious or national events.

Esfahan Provincial TV devoted its programmes to reports about the mourning month of Muharram and ceremonies marking Tasu'a and Ashura, the ninth and 10th of Muharram (8-9 February), marking the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn. The unhappy memories of the revolution anniversary such as those related to the "eight-year Iraqi-imposed war" and stories about many people who lost their lives during the early days of the revolution, were also shown during the mourning days for Imam Husayn's martyrdom. But, as soon as Ashura was over, the programmes focused mainly on the happy aspects of the revolution anniversary, such as the return of Imam Khomeyni, the victory of the Islamic Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

The station also included interviews with many young teenage boys with long hair and wearing fashionable clothes and jeans taking part in the Ashura ceremonies. For example, in a news bulletin (1315 gmt 7 Feb 06), it interviewed a number of young men wearing fashionable clothes and a young woman wearing heavy makeup speaking about their feelings towards Imam Husayn and Ashura.

In addition to covering the anniversaries, while at the same time avoiding offence to anyone who might believe that either of the historical occasions was more important than the other, the station included in its programming two further events of the week: reactions to the reporting of the country's nuclear case to the UN Security Council and what was described as the Western media's "insult" through the publication of the prophet cartoons. The anniversary events as well as the nuclear issue and the cartoon story were linked in many of the station's programmes and interviews.

Revolution anniversary rallies

On the anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran, 11 February, Esfahan Provincial TV's normally 20-minute 1715 gmt news bulletin was extended to 40 minutes to allow for video reports on large rallies throughout the cities of the province.

The bulletin began with shots of people gathering to join the rallies. An old woman was shown with a walking stick in one hand and a picture of President Ahmadinezhad in another, a group of young women carrying placards, a few girls carrying pictures of Ahmadinezhad and banners which said: "down with Israel", a few boys and men and women wearing winter clothes and a large group of people carrying pictures and an effigy of George Bush and a banner which said "down with America".

Other shots showed a group of handicapped people in wheelchairs and young children and babies in pushchairs. The TV also showed a few clerics among the crowd, Esfahan's Friday prayer imam and the governor of the city. Then the Imam Square, which is famous for its historical buildings and colourful mosques, was shown filled with people. The news presenter said: "This year's rallies were much more extensive than those in previous years." Aerial shots showed huge crowds, entering the square from one side and leaving from the other. Video reports on similar mass rallies were also shown in many other cities of the province.

Nuclear issue

The reporting of Iran's nuclear case to the UNSC was one of the issues discussed by the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Dr Hoseyn Faqihian, when he was the guest of a studio round table on Esfahan TV on 7 February. America knows that it cannot clash with Iran because the country is united, he said. He added that America had decided to put international pressure on the country, and said he believed the vote for referring the Iranian nuclear case to the Security Council was a "shaky" one and could not be a long-lasting decision. Dr Faqihian also said the same countries that were exerting pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear activities were themselves moving in the direction of nuclear energy. Recently the US president had said that the USA, a country which itself has the richest sources of oil, should reduce its dependency on oil and move further towards nuclear energy. Faqihian said naturally those countries are hostile towards Iran and the nuclear issue was a good case to bring up the extent of such hostility.

On the other hand, Esfahan Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Tabataba'i described the decision to report the Iranian nuclear case to the Security Council as "revolting and illegal". Linking the revolution anniversary and the nuclear case in his Friday prayer sermons on 10 February, the ayatollah said: "This year's 22 Bahman is the day of opposition to an extremely revolting and illegal decision by the European and American rulers and presidents. They have referred the nuclear case to the Security Council's Board of Governors. However, The Imam's [Khomeyni's] words still apply, that if we stand together, they will not be able to do a damn thing." The UN permanent members themselves have not only access to nuclear energy, but possess nuclear weapons, and despite the fact that they have signed agreements to eliminate nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction, they have not done so, they are even continuing their proliferation, the ayatollah was reported as saying.

Speaking about Western media "insulting the lofty status of the honourable prophet", Ayatollah Tabataba'i added: By waging a war among religions, the "world arrogance" has girded its loins to eliminate Islam. The "world arrogance" does not want Islamic countries, particularly Iran, to have access to nuclear know-how, the Friday prayer leader of Esfahan added. European countries which themselves drew up the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, are currently violating it themselves, he said.

Cartoon story

Speaking at a gathering of the armed forces in Esfahan on 7 February, Ayatollah Mazaheri, the head of Esfahan Theological School, directly linked Iran's nuclear case and the issue of the cartoons which first appeared in a Danish newspaper. He criticized "the unwise action" by the European countries, and said: "This ugly action by the Europeans was a calculated move to belittle Islam and to get an international consensus on reporting Iran's nuclear case to the Security Council." Later he connected those two stories to the revolution anniversary, and said: "Through their decisiveness and with one voice, our people will disrupt the equations of the enemies of Islam on 22 Bahman."

Esfahan's Governor-General Seyyed Morteza Bakhtiari voiced regret over the fact that this year's Ashura mourning ceremonies had coincided with "wide-spread insults against Islam in a number of European countries". The Esfahan governor said this when, as guest of a live studio discussion programme on 9 February, he offered his condolences on the occasion of Muharram. Bakhtiari mentioned a recent speech by the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i, about the country's nuclear activities, and said President Bush had urged America to move towards nuclear energy but wanted to stop Iran's peaceful nuclear activities. He said this was "a hypocritical stance", and added: "The people will show the enemies that they are behind their leader and government."

Nuclear facilities

The country has built nuclear facilities in different parts of the country including Esfahan, the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Dr Hoseyn Faqihian, said on Esfahan TV on 7 February. Last year Iran managed to access "a strategic process" for producing UF6, he added. He said the country built facilities in Natanz to enrich uranium and achieve the nuclear fuel cycle. Faqihian said fewer than 10 countries in the world had access to the nuclear fuel cycle and only eight countries had access to the nuclear fuel cycle independently. He said Iran was the eighth country in the world which had an independent nuclear fuel cycle. In terms of production, Iran was seventh in the world, Faqihian added.

Asked about the training of domestic experts, Dr Faqihian said many of the country's universities were educating engineers and also the country had recently opened a research centre in Tehran which had different colleges to train special nuclear experts. He expressed the hope that such courses would satisfy the country's need for nuclear experts. Dr Faqihian said the country's achievements included the discovery, mining and production of nuclear fuel cycle. But, he said, the country still did not have full access to the construction of nuclear plants. He said Iran enjoyed indigenous talents and expressed the hope that the country would conquer greater fields of technology.

Development projects

The production of Iran-140, a domestically-manufactured passenger plane, was also reported by Esfahan TV on 10 February. The managing director of the Esfahan-based aircraft manufacturing industries company, HESA, Abbas Fallah, spoke about the completion of the fourth Iran-140 passenger plane by the end of the current year (20 March 2006), and expressed hope that by the next three years, the manufacture of this plane would increase to the nominal capacity of 12 planes per year.

Esfahan TV also reported the opening of over 500 telecommunication projects in the province, and said: "Some 551 telecommunication projects were inaugurated in Esfahan Province by the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran through video conferencing. Some 207 telephone installation and development projects, 90 switching development and mobile phone BTS antenna installation projects, development of further two data communication projects and inaugurating 26 rural communication service offices were among these projects which were commissioned with a cost of 414 billion and 600 million rials." (10 February)

Source: Iranian briefing material from BBC Monitoring in English 15 Feb 06

15/02/2006 Iranian websites said being hacked, blocked over Holocaust cartoon contest

Text of report by Iranian radio on 15 February

[Announcer] The American Administration today closed the site of Iran's House of Cartoons which had invited people to take part in the international Holocaust cartoon contest.

The director of the House of Cartoons said that this cultural site had a six-year record of healthy activity and said: We have not insulted any religion or any official, but - contrary to its claims about freedom of expression and because of its support for Zionism - America has disrupted this press [as heard] site's work.

Mr Shoja'i told our reporter a few minutes ago:

[Shoja'i] The American Administration, unfortunately, blocked the irancartoon.com site today and eliminated it. In response to this, we immediately named three sites: [one of them was] the adlroom site. Unfortunately, we noticed today that this site, too, has been attacked. They had hacked the irancartoon.ir site, which is in Persian. We were able to make it operational again.

They completely closed our .com in effect. And this shows that the freedom of expression to which they stake a claim is hollow and insincere. Our question is: Why do you attach such sanctity to the Holocaust, whereas you don't attach this sanctity to prophets? What does the Holocaust have that makes you so afraid of it?

Source: Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran, in Persian 1040 gmt 15 Feb 06

15/02/2006 Iran: Justice minister denies BBC report, says it is "a forgery"

Excerpt from report by Iranian Fars News Agency website

The Judiciary spokesman has denied a report by BBC's Persian-language website that seven people accused of terrorism in [the city of] Ahvaz last Mehr [month beginning 23 September 2005] have been sentenced to death, and he said the report is a forgery.

In an interview with Fars News Agency, Jamal Karimirad , the minister of justice, referred to his press conference on Tuesday [14 February], when he announced that verdicts had been issued for the seven individuals accused of terrorism in Ahvaz last Mehr, and said: I did not tell reporters anything about the details of the verdicts because the verdicts were issued by the preliminary court and if the lawyers for the accused lodge an appeal, their request will be reviewed by authorities in charge of appeal, and verdicts will be implemented if they are confirmed.

On Tuesday Karimirad told reporters that the defendants had been accused of war [against God], corruption on earth, murder and formation of an illegal organization, and added that if they lodge an appeal authorities in charge of appeal would review their case.

The BBC's Persian-language website today quoted the judiciary spokesman as saying that seven individuals had been found guilty in connection with the bombings in the city of Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan Province, and that they have been sentenced to death. [background omitted]

There is evidence that those responsible for the bombings in Ahvaz have the support of the British government.

Source: Fars News Agency website, Tehran, in Persian 1444 gmt 15 Feb 06

MALAYSIA

14/02/2006 Malaysian PM orders two-week suspension of daily for publishing Danish cartoons

Text of unattributed report headlined: "2-week suspension on Guang Ming Ribao Sdn Bhd" in English by Malaysian news agency Bernama website

Putrajaya, 14 February: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is also internal security minister, Tuesday [14 February] ordered the suspension of the publication permit issued to Guang Ming Ribao Sdn Bhd, the publisher of the "Guang Ming Daily Afternoon Edition" for two weeks from 16 February to 11 March.

According to a statement issued by the Internal Security Minister's office, the order was made under Sub-section 6(2) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (Act 301).

"The decision was made following the move by the Guang Ming Daily Afternoon Edition newspaper dated 3 February which published an article in Mandarin titled 'European Media Reproduce Caricature Which Inflamed Controversy', 'Danish Press Insults Islamic Religion, Tenders Apology', which also inserted the caricature insulting Prophet Muhammad.

"Following the publication of the article, Guang Ming Ribao Sdn Bhd had committed an offence and breached paragraph 6 of the conditions in the permit issued under Sub-section 6(1) of the Act," the statement said.

Abdullah also issued an order under Sub-section 7(1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (Act 301) known as Printing Presses and Publications Order (Control Against Undesirable Publications) (No.2) 2006, effective, Wednesday.

The order prohibits totally the printing, importation, production, reproduction, publication, sale, circulation, distribution or possession of any publication concerning the issue on the caricature throughout Malaysia and which may jeopardise public order, security, or may jolt the mind of the people, or otherwise may jeopardise public or national interest.

Source: Bernama website, Kuala Lumpur, in English 0000 gmt 14 Feb 06

YEMEN

14/02/2006 Yemen: "Little accurate information" on case of jailed editor

Text of report in English by Yemeni newspaper Yemen Observer website on 14 February

The recently imprisoned Yemen Observer editor, Muhammad al-Asadi, is in good spirits despite being confined in a basement cell with 14 other detainees. "I feel great. I know I haven't done anything wrong," he told a small group of visitors on Monday of this week.

Newspaper colleagues here in Yemen have visited frequently. They are permitted to bring him gifts, food, and the occasional bag of qat.

Mr Al-Asadi, who supervises the editing and production of each issue of the Yemen Observer was in charge when the Observer published partial details of the now notorious Danish cartoons. He was summoned to the office of the print and media prosecutor here in Sana'a on Saturday of last week, questioned, and immediately incarcerated.

The case remains a mystery even to the closest observers here in Yemen. The Observer published the Danish images under a thick gray band and in the context of an issue of the newspaper that was almost entirely devoted to praising the Prophet Muhammad, explaining the current controversy, and illuminating the background of Middle Eastern anger over the images.

Somehow, authorities in Yemen have managed to overlook the all-important context. Mr al-Asadi has now been charged with publishing images offensive to Islam, his newspaper has been shut down, and he is currently preparing himself for a trial in which he could be sentenced to a year in jail. Or, because of the many vagaries of the Yemen legal system, many years in jail. [Passage omitted]

Meanwhile, mountebanks here and there in Yemen are exploiting the situation. Preachers in Ibb and in the Al-Beitha governorate have called for newspaper editors execution, as has at least one member of parliament. Transcripts of last Friday's sermons from around Yemen show imams essentially sharpening their knives. One said that life imprisonment was too good a punishment for those who re-published the Danish images, and recommended beheading by sword. Another called for death by immolation. Though these imams are well known in Yemen, journalists now consider the printing of their names a dangerous and unwise risk. Thus it is that they can carry on their attacks under a mantle of anonymous, popular piety.

The Yemen Observer has mounted a vigorous defence of Mr Al-Asadi. It's sent a privately copied Arabic translation of the original article, and sidebars, to news stands around Sana'a. In the original issue, the Prophet was appraised in explicitly heroic language by Thomas Carlysle, Leo Tolstoy and other great thinkers in world history. These quotations have now been re-published in order to clarify what exactly the attitude of the Observer staff is towards the Prophet Muhammad.

Yet the legal battle is likely to be a difficult one. Lawyers against the newspapers in Sana'a have mounted a drive of their own, and according to media sources have collected some 20 million Yemeni rials (almost 100,000 US dollars) from private sources in order to aid their cause.

Public opinion on the matter, it seems, is in a volatile state. There is relatively little accurate information concerning the case on television or in Yemeni newspapers. Mr Al-Asadi's supporters worry that Mr Al-Asadi will be condemned in the court of public opinion before his story appears in an accurate light before the eyes of the nation. The Observer has therefore been making every effort to assure authorities and the public of the benign, non-provocative nature of the original article.

Letters of support and creative ideas for how to help should be sent to this web site without delay.

Source: Yemen Observer website, Sanaa, in English 14 Feb 06

14/02/2006 Jailed Yemeni editor defends publication of Prophet cartoons

Text of report Mohammed al-Asadi, "An appeal from jail from Muhammad al-Asadi, editor-in-chief", published in English by Yemeni newspaper Yemen Observer website on 14 February

In the Name of Allah the Most Beneficent, Most Merciful,

To all my brothers, friends and colleagues, my dear journalists, men and women, to all those dedicated and standing on the frontline of our battle to defend our people and land, I greet you all. Peace be upon you all.

I never imagined in my life, even in the very worst of my nightmares, that I would spend even one night in jail. I lived such a nightmare last night, a time and experience that I would wish no one to have to go through.

I would like to thank you all for your support, your cooperation and your concern at this difficult time. I hope that this support will continue and increase to strengthen my faith. It has made me proud that I belong to this family of journalists, which is working to create a change for the better that we look forward to, sometime in the future.

If one wants to be a hero and wants to be in jail, let them go, but I do not deserve to be held here for the accusation they try to frame me with. I want all you to know and to make it clear here, that I am innocent of the charges they have framed me with, and which they have used to shut down our paper.

You all know the work, polices and opinions of the Yemen Observer, and know that we would never do anything to cause any harm to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Indeed, the Observer's staff has made every effort to defend the Prophet (PBUH), because they consider this as a way to worship to God. They would never try to use it to take advantage, or to exploit it for personal or political gains.

As our newspaper is in English, I have an even bigger responsibility, as it is read by people in the West who are keen to find out more about the Prophet (PBUH).

We dedicated a whole page for this purpose, and created windows and space to talk about the Prophet (PBUH), as well as the reaction of people in the street towards the cartoons. We produced double what the official media printed, which at best has only a limited and local influence, and is not respected by many.

Please, tell people the truth of what we in the Yemen Observer do - writing in a foreign language to turn enemies into friends, following what Allah says in the Holy Koran.

"Call into the way of the Lord with wisdom and fair and exhortation and reason with them in the better way. Lo! Thy Lord is best aware of him who strayeth from His way and He is best aware of those who go aright."

And Allah also say "The good deed and the evil deed are not the alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then Lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend."

This message has come from inside the prison, where I am held. But what scares me more than leaving my three little daughters, who wait every night for me to come back home, is that I have been accused and challenged in my belief and faith.

Some have accused me of disbelieving, calling me qafer [unbeliever]. This is more than I can bear. When we published the cursed cartoons, we made sure that they were crossed out, covered and distorted, so that they were not clear.

As far as I know, the prosecution department have refused any guarantee to release me, using as their justification the claim that the anger in the street is preventing them from doing so until things calm down. When, however, will the street calm?!

These people are themselves behind the rage in the streets, and are also those who are against our paper and me. They forget everything that we in the Observer have done in serving the country, Islam and - above all - Muhammad the Prophet (PBUH) throughout the history of the Observer.

I place the responsibility on you all to tell everybody you see that we have been framed, oppressed, repressed and punished without trial.

The Yemen Observer was shut down, its license exterminated, to close a window of truth, a vehicle that called for love, peace and freedom.

As Mr Faris Al-Sanabani said: "Yemen will lose the Yemen Observer, and I don't think that the Ministry of Information or the Yemeni government can afford jobs for the 35 families who will lose and suffer if the Observer is shut down for so long."

I want you all to be sure that my faith in God and our Prophet (PBUH) is very strong, made stronger indeed, by the fact that I face those who want to harm to me for my good intentions.

I hope finally that you will always stand together, for better or for worse, for the sake of freedom and what is right.

Your colleague,

Muhammad Al-Asadi

Prisoner of Prosecution of Press and Publication

Written at 1:15 am, 12 February, 2006-02-13

IRAQ

21/02/2006 Three new Kurdish satellite TV channels start transmission

Excerpt from report headlined "Transmission of three new Kurdish satellite channels: Rojhelat, Tishk and Komala"; published by Iraqi independent weekly newspaper Awena on 21 February; words and phrases in round bracket rendered in English as published

In the last few days three new Kurdish satellite channels: Rojhelat [East], Tishk and Komala, have begun text and test programmes. These three channels are run by three Iranian Kurdistan political organizations.

Rojhelat [pronounced rozhhalat] satellite TV (Rojhelat TV) is run by the Organization of the Revolutionary Toilers of Iranian Kurdistan [as rendered on the organization's web site www.komala.org/english/eindex Kurdish: komalay shorishgerani zahmatheshani Kurdistani Iran. Commonly known as Komala Party] and it is based in Sweden.

In a statement to Awena, member of political bureau and head of information of the Toilers' organization, Reza Ka'bi, said: "Kurdish society has experienced many fundamental social changes in the last few years. Kurdish society is no longer that which existed at the start of the 1957 and 1979 revolutions. The expansion of towns, the development of higher education, the presence of tens of thousands of educated Kurds, the rise in national awareness, the rise in the community's knowledge of the literature and history of Kurdistan, the cultural development in all fields, consideration for the status of women in society, interaction with the outside world, the development of trade between Kurdistan and neighbouring countries and the emigration of hundreds of thousands of Kurdish workers have all contributed to changes in the previous years."

Ka'bi also mentioned the experience in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has become a place for the strengthening and growth of the cause at the international level and in the Middle East.

Regarding changes, he said: "As a political party, all this is to facilitate a mass movement towards a bright and optimistic future, which demands clarity and transparency in our political tasks, action and planning. It is under these conditions that Rojhelat TV emerges in the political arena in east [Iranian] Kurdistan. Therefore, it is necessary that it [Rojhelat TV] should reflect various views in Kurdish society, not only that of a party or a particular line."

Rojhelat broadcasts test programmes at 1530 gmt, which will be repeated at 1200 on the following day. It is expected that it will begin broadcasting regular programme in Kurdish and Farsi in the next few days.

Tishk TV (Tishk TV) is another satellite channel which is based in Paris and run by the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran [KDPI].

Member Political Bureau and head of information of the KDPI Ali Mehrparwar said "Tishk TV programme will reflect to a lesser extent the policy of our party while it will be devoted to the promotion of the culture of democracy and human rights throughout Iran and Kurdistan and will also to the importance of liberal dialogue and Kurdish art and culture."

Mehrparwar also said that their TV channel will broadcast three hours daily in Farsi and in Sorani and Badini Kurdish from 1700 until 2000 gmt via Hotbird. It is expected regular programmes will begin at the beginning of May.

Another satellite channel Komala TV (Komala TV) has begun transmissions of test programmes at the beginning of this month from Sweden. It is run by the Kurdistan Organization of the Iranian Communist Party-Komala. In an interview with Awena, the head of information of the Kurdistan Organization of the Iranian Communist Party-Komala, Farhadi Shabani, who is also the manager of TV station said that the TV channel would be the voice of all the deprived people in society, particularly women who are dissatisfied with inequality and bias and suffering youths."

He indicated that a major part of their programmes will be devoted to social and political discussion and debate.

Komala TV currently broadcasts text and test programmes in Kurdish and Farsi two hours in the evening from 1600 until 1800 gmt via Hotbird. According to Farhadi "It has been decided that regular programme will begin next month gradually. More importance will be given to news in a way that would facilitate live transmission."

AFGHANISTAN

25/02/2006 Public complain about vote rigging in Afghan private TV's talent contest

Text of report by Afghan independent Tolo TV on 25 February

[Presenter] A number of Kabul residents say that the last phases of voting for stars [talent show] on the Star Programme of Tolo television have not been transparent. They complain of manipulation in the selection of the stars, but officials of Tolo television and Roshan mobile company reject claims by the public. They say the stars are selected by the direct votes of the people.

[A man] Roshan Company might have interfered in the voting process.

[Another man] It is a very good process. It shows that Afghanistan is making progress, but unfortunately some stars are deprived of their rights.

[A man in Pashto] They are all our own people, the Afghan stars, and we should not say that one is good or the other is bad.

[Correspondent] The person in charge of SMS [text messaging] technical section at the Roshan Company says there has been no manipulation in the process and that every star has been selected by the votes of the people. He says the SMS votes for every single star are secretly counted by Roshan Company and officials of the Afghan Star programme.

[A technical worker, Roshan Company] All the stars have their own specific slots with the Roshan Company, and the votes they win go to their own slots. Starts are given the podium in the next Afghan Star programme according to the number of votes they win.

Roshan Company and Tolo television do not interfere in selecting the stars for the new contest of the Afghan Star programme.

Source: Tolo TV, Kabul, in Dari 1330 gmt 25 Feb 06

AFGHANISTAN

27/02/2006 Afghan court fines private TV channel for broadcasting immoral scenes

Text of report by Afghan state TV on 27 February

A primary court has fined Afghan TV [a private TV channel] 70,000 afghanis [approximately 1,400 dollars].

According to Bakhtar Information Agency, judge Ansarollah Mawlawizada presided over an open trial today. The trial was held in the presence of members of the Media Monitoring Commission and the proprietor of Afghan TV. The court fined the TV station 70,000 afghanis in cash.

The proprietor of Afghan TV rejected the decision and said he would appeal.

The Media Monitoring Commission had earlier suggested a fine of 50,000 afghanis for the TV channel for broadcasting immoral scenes.

Source: National Television Afghanistan, Kabul, in Dari 1430 gmt 27 Feb 06

IRAN

21/02/2006 Iran press: Official says Iran must create national Internet

Text of report by Iranian newspaper Iran website on 21 February

Social Group: The secretary of the Supreme Council of Information Technology (Showra-ye Ali-ye Fanavari-ye Ettela'at) emphasizing the starting of the operations of the "national Internet" said: Starting this network will eliminate many of the existing challenges that at the present time the users inside the country have regarding the use of the Internet.

Engineer Abdolmajid Riazi yesterday in the ceremonies for the inauguration of the "Second Conference on Information and Communication Technology Management" (ICTM) added: At the present time the Internet is under the control of the United States and this causes that country, for whatever reason, to shut down the sites of other countries, including ours. Among the recent examples, the shutting down of 400 cultural sites can be mentioned. Pointing out that establishing a national Internet in the country will require the creation of a network with suitable infrastructure and broadband, he explained: At the present time, 5.1 million people have access to high-speed Internet (ADSL) and 5.20 million people to low-speed lines (dialup), and the high speed lines must be expanded to achieve the abovementioned goal.

Engineer Riazi pointed out: This requires the writing of laws such as an electronic trade law, computer fines, privacy laws, and so on.

Source: Iran website, Tehran, in Persian 21 Feb 06

01/03/2006 New Iranian website pays tribute to world of Islam's "martyrs"

A new Iranian website has been launched which is devoted to "martyrdom-seeking operations" and the "martyrs" of the world of Islam.

The website's top banner is mostly in green, with a photo of Al-Aqsa Mosque and a superimposed photo of a machine-gun carrying man wearing a red headband. The website's top banner also carries the words: "Setad-e Pasdasht-e Shohada-ye Nehzat-e Jahani Eslam" (Commemoration HQ of the Martyrs of Islam's World Movement).

On 1 March, the main photograph on the homepage shows the damaged shrine in Iraq's Samarra. The homepage also has links to various sections, including: "News", "Interviews", "Articles", "Statements", "Photo Gallery", "Martyrdom-Seekers", "Martyrdom-Seeking Commanders", "Women Martyrdom-Seekers", "Iranian Martyrdom-Seekers" and "History of Martyrdom-Seeking".

The homepage also has a link to "Application for Registering in Martyrdom-Seeking Units".

At the bottom right-hand corner of the homepage there is a question which users can reply "Yes" or "No" by way of an opinion poll. The question is: "Should there by revenge operations against the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which was the first to publish the sacrilegious cartoons of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him?"

The website is at http://www.esteshhad.com/ and is currently available in Persian only, although English and Arabic sections are "under construction".

Source: BBC Monitoring research in English 1 Mar 06

PAKISTAN

28/02/2006 Pakistan: Two journalists threatened by mufti in tribal area

Text of press release by Paris-based organization Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) on 28 February

Reporters Without Borders today urged the Pakistani government to act against religious extremists threatening journalists and cited the targeting of Khyber Agency reporters Nasrullah Afridi and Khayalmat Shah by a local mufti, Munir Shakir.

"The threats to journalists in the tribal areas are unacceptable," the worldwide press freedom organization said, "and we call on the government to take steps to deal with those, especially extremist religious figures, who harass and censor reporters there for national newspapers.

"We and the TUJ call for an immediate campaign to avoid more deaths of journalists, such as those in February 2005 of Amir Nawab Khan and Allah Noor Wazir, and the disappearance of Hayatullah Khan last December." The two murdered journalists were caught in an ambush in South Waziristan tribal area after reporting on the surrender of a Taleban warlord. Those responsible have not been punished.

Afridi, correspondent of the daily papers Mashriq and The Statesman, and Shah, president of the Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ) in the Khyber Agency (west of Peshawar), were threatened by the mufti in clandestine radio broadcasts on 24 February after they reported clashes between his supporters and those of rival mufti Pir Saifur Rehman for control of the Khyber Agency region. He urged his supporters not to believe "false stories" in the press and urged them to read papers such as the banned extremist paper Zarb-e-momin.

"Munir doesn't like journalists talking about his rival Rehman," said Afridi. Munir has reportedly declared papers mentioning Rehman as "enemies of Islam and the tribal nation." Both journalists asked for government protection.

They told Reporters Without Borders they dared not return to their home town of Bara because Munir's supporters might attack them. TUJ president Sailab Mehsud warned at a conference in Peshawar on 18 February that the situation in the tribal areas was "going from bad to worse".

Source: Reporters Sans Frontieres press release, Paris, in English 28 Feb 06

01/03/2006 Media banned from reporting on US Congress vote on Pakistani nuclear scientist

Text of Online report headlined: "Media stopped from publishing 9/11 report" by Pakistani newspaper Daily Times website on 1 March

Islamabad: A special sub-committee of the National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee has prohibited the media from publishing changes in the 9/11 Commission report and details of voting in the US Congress regarding Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Foreign Secretary Riaz M Khan briefed the media on voting in the US Congress regarding Dr AQ Khan, but requested them not to publish details of the incident on grounds that it would be "detrimental to the national interest".

Source: Daily Times website, Lahore, in English 1 Mar 06

WEST BANK & GAZA

23/02/2006 (Corr) Director says Palestinian radio "saddened" by statement on Hamas boycott

Text of report by Yusuf al-Qazzaz headlined "Word of honour", published by Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadidah on 23 February

It is permissible for Palestinian organizations, establishments, parties and movements to disagree on the seasons of wheat and oranges. However it is impermissible for them to disagree on this homeland which belongs to all Palestinians in Palestine and the diaspora. Also, the ideals of democracy, freedom, independence, national anthem and flag are for everybody.

In our country, since 1994 we have a radio station called Voice of Palestine [VOP]. Its main discourse is that it is the radio of all the Palestinian people from all social and political walks. It has interviewed leaders, officials, ordinary citizens, prisoners and wounded people from all factions.

The history of the Voice of Palestine is not merely a legacy of numerous events from which we choose what suits us or what suits this or that faction. We have interviewed officials and ordinary citizens from across the national and political spectrum.

Our archives and employees escaped Israeli air destruction four times. Our impartiality was attested by the Central Election Committee before and after the recent elections. Yes, we made mistakes, which we corrected, but we did not accuse others of treason, nor did we engage in character assassination. We criticized the sick situation in our society whatever it may be. We received a certificate of merit from the UN office in Jerusalem, the capital of our country. We resisted the spectre of fear.

We proudly record that late President Yasir Arafat, incumbent President Mahmud Abbas and outgoing Prime Minister Ahmad Quray did not ask the VOP board of directors to ban or censor any statement or interview. We proudly record that we have never had any incident of untoward behaviour by a VOP male or female employee. We are also proud that students studying the media subject at our universities took training courses in VOP and then worked as correspondents for Pan-Arab satellite TV channels, which believed in the high quality of our work.

Two days ago [21 February], we were surprised to learn that Dr Mahmud al-Ramhi, secretary of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a Hamas member, had informed one of our employees that Hamas would boycott the Voice of Palestine radio on the pretext that we are biased. This has saddened the VOP employees because it is unjustified. We have audio tapes of brethren Hamas officials that refute these allegations. Furthermore, everyone knows that we are not the way Dr Al-Ramhi was trying to portray us.

The Voice of Palestine offered martyrs and suffered destruction at the hands of the occupation as a price for its dialogue with Hamas and all the resistance factions. The Voice of Palestine will remain for its entire people, carrying its national media message, interviewing everybody, including Hamas, and defending the freedom of speech, democracy and the truth. How could democracy be permissible in the recent elections but unacceptable in Voice of Palestine? He who defends freedom of speech deserves to live and to have a homeland.

Source: Al-Hayat al-Jadidah, Ramallah, in Arabic 23 Feb 06

IRAN

02/03/2006 Iran's Esfahan TV opens news bureau in Khansar

Text of report by Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Esfahan Provincial TV on 2 March

The [Esfahan Centre of the] Voice and Vision [radio and TV organization] has opened a news bureau in the city of Khansar [Esfahan Province].

During a meeting of the city's administrative council and an opening ceremony of the news bureau, Esfahan's deputy governor-general for political and security affairs, Mr Azin, said: The dissemination of news and information is one of the rights of the people. He added: The availability of plans, reflection of shortcomings and problems and explaining the capabilities of different areas could help the development of the province and the removal of existing obstacles.

Moreover, during the ceremony, Eng Kalbasi, the director-general of Esfahan's Voice and Vision, mentioned that there were 33 news bureaus throughout the country and out of those 10 were in Esfahan Province. He said the province had the biggest number of news bureaus in the country.

The director-general of the Esfahan Centre of the Voice and Vision spoke about a plan for all TV channels to become available in remote rural areas, and said: With the help of local officials, the organization is ready to install technical equipment to provide video signals for all the existing TV channels to villages which have a population of under 100 families.

Eng Kalbasi pointed to the opening of the news bureau in Khansar, and said: The Esfahan Centre of the Voice and Vision is ready to cooperate with local governorates and create news bureaus to provide quick, accurate and transparent news and information.

During the same event, the Friday prayer leader of Khansar said, providing services to the people, without expecting anything in return, was the duty of the country's officials and added that this would pave the way for social growth.

The governor of Khansar, Mr Khansari, called for the reflection of the activities of local officials to the people and the reflection of the people's demands through the city's news bureau.

[Video shows the opening ceremony]

Source: Esfahan Provincial TV, Esfahan, in Persian 1300 gmt 2 Mar 06

AFGHANISTAN

04/03/2006 Local councils, residents condemn private Afghan Tolo TV broadcast

Text of report by Afghan state radio on 4 March

[Presenter] At a meeting, people of [southern] Khost Province asked the executives of Tolo TV to make its programmes in line with Islamic law. Please pay attention to our correspondent's report.

[Correspondent] A few [local] councils held a big meeting in southern Khost Province today condemning the programmes broadcast by [private] Tolo TV. The speakers criticized Tolo programmes saying that they violate Islam and the constitution. They also criticized the TV channel for not keeping a balance between Dari and Pashto languages, and complained that the majority Pashto speaking locals cannot understand its programmes.

They warned that if directors of Tolo do not correct these programmes, its local channel will be closed.

At the end of the meeting a two-point resolution was also passed. It was attended by ulema [religious council], mojahedin, women, teachers, young people, students, businessmen and some members of councils.

The meeting was convened three months after that the TV channel had launched its programmes in the province, which have been attracting viewers ever since.

Source: Radio Afghanistan, Kabul, in Pashto 1430 gmt 4 Mar 06

IRAN

04/03/2006 Iran inaugurates Qazvin provincial TV network

Text of report by Iranian radio on 4 March

A provincial TV channel called "Sima-ye Qazvin" started broadcasting its programmes at the presence of the head of the Voice and Vision of Iran this afternoon, with the motto of Islamic thought, Iranian culture and provincial media service. We have a telephone link with our colleague at the news bureau in Qazvin. Hello, Mr Jabbari.

[Jabbari] Hello to you and your viewers. As you already mentioned, concurrent with the auspicious birthday of Imam Mohammad Baqer [PBUH], Iran's 27th provincial TV network was inaugurated in Qazvin Province this afternoon at the presence of the head of the Voice and Vision of Iran.

Mr Zarqami, in the inaugural ceremonies, said that this provincial TV network belongs to the people. He stressed that people's desires will determine what the policy of this TV network should be.

He added that the directors of this TV network should identify viewers' needs, and produce and broadcast programmes according to what they want.

The head of the Voice and Vision stressed that Qazvin Province has always been the birthplace of the religious ulema, scientists, thinkers, elites, artists and outstanding scholars. He added that Qazvin provincial TV network can benefit from this valuable potential and become one of the successful TV networks of the country.

Mr Zarqami said that the officials of this network can benefit from the facilities of this media network to listen to people's views through the open podium of this TV network and accordingly improve the programmes and solve people's problems.

I should remind you that 25bn rials has been spent on Qazvin provincial network from the budget accounts of the leader's visit and the Voice and Vision.

This network broadcasts six hours of different programme and two news bulletins everyday. Some 120 hours of programmes have already been produced for this TV network and 200 hours of programmes have been purchased. Some 200 hours of programme are also under preparation. The Qazvin provincial programmes broadcasts its programmes from 1700 to 2230 [1330 to 1900 gmt] everyday.

Source: Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran, in Persian 1630 gmt 4 Mar 06

PAKISTAN

04/03/2006 Pakistan: Journalists to stop reporting from Waziristan due to pressure

Excerpt from report by Rahimullah Yusufzai entitled: "Chechen commander slain in North Waziristan identified; Jirga to discuss situation today; Miranshah journalists to stop filing reports", published by Pakistani newspaper The News website on 4 March

Peshawar: Authorities here are claiming that one of the Chechens killed in the recent military operation in North Waziristan was an important regional commander named Abu Khitab. Requesting anonymity, a senior government official told The News that Abu Khitab commanded the foreign militants operating in North Waziristan. He said the commander was killed along with his four Chechen bodyguards when a Pakistan army helicopter gunship attacked his vehicle while fleeing Danday Saidgai village two kilometres from the border with Afghanistan.

When asked about their bodies and any other piece of evidence that Abu Khitab indeed was killed in the operation, the government official said the local supporters of the foreign militants reportedly collected the scattered body organs of the Chechen commander and his bodyguards and secretly got them buried.

Earlier, an unnamed military officer had identified the slain Chechen commander as Asad. Foreign militants normally use several names. The officials pointed out that Abu Khitab had quite a few aliases and one of them was Asad.

However, there has been no previous mention of any Chechen commander by the name of Abu Khitab or Asad. It was also revealing to learn that so many Chechens were hiding in North Waziristan, that too in one mud-build house in Danday Saidgai.

The authorities are claiming that up to 40 Chechens were killed in the military operation that was carried out by members of Pakistan Army's Special Services Group (SSP) flown to the area in helicopters. At least six civilians were also killed in the attack and several others were wounded.

Meanwhile, journalists in Miranshah were summoned by a cleric Maulana Abdol Khaleq and local Taleban to a madrasah [religious seminary] Friday and questioned about a news item [passage omitted].

Following this encounter with the Maulana and his supporters, journalists in North Waziristan decided to stop filing reports about the ongoing violence in the area. It may be added that journalists have been facing threats and pressure from all sides while reporting the events in both North Waziristan and South Waziristan. [passage omitted]

Source: The News website, Islamabad, in English 4 Mar 06

AFGHANISTAN

05/03/2006 Northern Afghan official urges cable TV channels to uphold Islamic values

Text of report by Afghan Balkh Province television on 5 March

Head of Balkh Information and Culture Department Saleh Mohammad Khaliq presided over a meeting of the owners of cable [television channels] today.

First, the head of department speaking about government policy on cultural development and people's awareness said: All city cable channels should air programmes in compliance with the media law.

Highlighting complaints by some local people, the head of Information and Culture Department said: City cable channels should air programmes in accordance with Islamic and national values. He urged city cable channels to air programmes from 31 specific channels, including all Afghan TV channels.

Representing owners of city cable channels, Abdol Hosayn spoke about the issue and pledged cooperation with the government department.

Source: Balkh TV, Mazar-e Sharif, in Dari 1500 gmt 5 Mar 06

AZERBAIJAN

05/03/2006 Azeri paper asks security minister to defend editor

Text of Tamerlan's report by Azerbaijani newspaper Yeni Musavat on 5 March "Yeni Musavat has appealed to the National Security Ministry" and subheaded "The editorial office is concerned over the threat to our staff member's life"

Yeni Musavat newspaper has appealed to National Security Minister Eldar Mahmudov. The paper expressed concern over the recent phone calls by unidentified people who threatened to kill the paper's editor, Zabil Muqabiloglu.

"We would like to inform you that these people called the editorial office of Yeni Musavat yesterday [03 March] and threatened to gun him [Muqabiloglu] down. The unidentified authors of the call related this threat to his latest articles," the paper said in its letter to the minister.

The minister is asked to probe into the incident and take action.

"Dear Eldar muallim [form of address], we know that the National Security Ministry eavesdrops on phone conversations of key members of our newspaper. It is not ruled out that your ministry may have some information on these threatening calls. Thus, we would like to request you to use your powers to counter the threat to Muqabiloglu's life, identify the phone terrorists and then inform our newspaper," the letter says.

Yeni Musavat has said that it is ready to provide every assistance and information available to the National Security Ministry in this issue.

Source: Yeni Musavat, Baku in Azeri 5 Mar 06 p 4

DENMARK

22/02/2006 Danish foreign minister records TV message to Muslim world

Text of report by Danish radio website on 22 February; subheading as published:

Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller recorded a television message to the Muslim world this evening. The foreign minister tries to address moderate forces in the Arab world in a five-minute speech.

This is the first time since the Muhammad crisis broke out that the foreign minister has attempted to establish dialogue with ordinary Muslims.

"We want to show the moderate forces at street level that we have actually listened to them and that we are making a number of initiatives to promote dialogue and mutual understanding," Per Stig Moeller tells TV-AVISEN [Danish television news].

Hopes that Arabic TV stations will show video

"The aim of recording a television message like this is to reach further in the Arab world. We can only reach the man in the street through the media," the foreign minister says.

In the video, which is in English, Per Stig Moeller says that the Danish newspaper has already apologized to all Muslims for the offence caused by the cartoons and that the government has endorsed this apology.

The speech is published in full on the Foreign Ministry's Internet site and the ministry hopes that Arabic television stations will broadcast the speech, although no commitment to do so has been made in advance.

Source: Danmarks Radio website, Copenhagen, in Danish 2109 gmt 22 Feb 06

DENMARK

09/02/2006 Egyptian paper printed Muhammad cartoons in October 2005

Text of report by Danish radio website on 9 February

An Egyptian newspaper printed six of the controversial Muhammad drawings in October. The drawings were printed in the Al-Fajr newspaper on 17 October 2005 in association with an article which condemned the cartoons and considered them offensive or insulting to all Muslims and Islam.

This has been revealed to Ritzaus [Danish news agency] by the Danish ambassador to Egypt, Bjarne Soerensen. As far as he is aware the printing of the drawings did not cause any debate or other reaction in Egypt.

Source: Danmarks Radio website, Copenhagen, in Danish 1631 gmt 9 Feb 06

10/02/2006 S. African Muslim council calls for end to boycott of weekly over cartoons

Text of report by South African news agency SAPA website

Johannesburg, 10 February: The Jamiatul Ulama (Council of Muslim Theologians) called for an end to the boycott of the Sunday Times on Friday [10 February] following talks with the editor over controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

The council had successfully applied for a court interdict banning publication of the cartoons of the Prophet in various South African newspapers.

The Sunday Times opposed the interdict. It said it had not decided whether it was going to use the cartoons but objected to being told what it could publish.

"While we believe that this action was necessary in light of the potential to hurt and incite violence, our subsequent discussions with the editor of the Sunday Times has satisfied us to this publication's willingness to balance the importance of freedom of expression with the sensitivities of all its readers," a council statement read.

While the outrage over the cartoons should be understood in the context of reverence for the Prophet Muhammad, the council would not approve of unlawful acts or issuing death threats. "In view of the sensitivities adopted by the media, we request the Muslim community to end the boycott of the Sunday Times and of any other media that demonstrate sensitivity towards the beliefs and practices of the various faith-based communities in the country."

Muslims around the world, including South Africa, have come out strongly against the publications of the cartoons, deeming them offensive and against interpretation of the Koran on idolatry.

The Mail and Guardian on Friday apologized for running one of the cartoons, saying that it had done so to educate and had not meant to cause offence.

The cartoons were first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and have been reproduced around the world.

Source: SAPA news agency website, Johannesburg, in English 1423 gmt 10 Feb 06

FIJI

10/02/2006 Fiji Muslim group files complaint on republication of controversial cartoons

Text of report by Fijilive website on 10 February

A Muslim organization in Fiji has filed a complaint with police against one of Fiji's newspapers for republishing controversial caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in its weekend edition.

The Ahmadiya Anjuman Ishaat-i-Islam has written to Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes asking him to charge the managing director of the Fiji Daily Post, Mesake Koroi.

Vice-President Hafiz Khan told Fijilive today that Koroi had insulted the Muslim community by publishing the cartoons.

"He has insulted the Muslim religion, and the Muslim community has taken it as an absolute insult."

"He has done a dangerous thing. The last thing Fiji needs is the emergence of militants in the country," he said.

Khan added that if the police failed to take action they would pursue the matter themselves and take legal action.

Source: Fijilive website, Suva, in English 10 Feb 06

10/02/2006 Fiji: Newspaper receives bomb threats after publishing controversial cartoons

Excerpt from report by Fijilive website on 10 February

Police are investigating bomb threats made to the Fiji Daily Post newspaper this morning. Police evacuated the newspaper's premises this morning after threatening phone calls were received.

The newspaper has been in the spotlight this week for reprinting controversial cartoons on the Prophet Muhammad.

Acting Chief Sub-editor Ricardo Morris said their Valelevu and Suva offices received an anonymous call from a man telling them about a bomb in the buildings. Morris said they were not intimidated at all and they stood by their publication.

The offices have now been cleared and the employees have returned to work. [passage omitted]

Source: Fijilive website, Suva, in English 10 Feb 06

FINLAND

09/02/2006 Finnish Broadcasting Corporation bans showing Muhammad cartoons

Text of report by Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat website on 9 February

The Finnish Broadcasting Corporation [YLE] has prohibited showing the Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad in the television's entertainment programmes. The ban applies, for instance, to SF Studio, Uutisvuoto and Itse valtiaat [animated political satire].

"The entertainment programmes broadcast by YLE will not show images making fun of Islam. We wanted to draw the line to keep these cartoons and the discussion out of entertainment programmes," says Riitta Pihlajamaki, programme director of TV-1.

The written guidelines do not directly prohibit discussing the topic, even though showing the cartoons is prohibited.

"But in some discussions with the production companies, we have concluded that we need to use restraint and careful consideration. There is no need to raise this case in entertainment programmes," says Pihlajamaki.

Current affairs and news programmes have, of course, extensively addressed the sensation that arose when the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons of the Muslims' Prophet Muhammad. The cartoons have also appeared briefly in the news. Pihlajamaki emphasizes that nobody has had the intention of broadcasting the cartoons in entertainment programmes.

"We try to stay up-to-date and use the publisher's discretion."

The guidelines have been issued by the programme directors of both the analogue channels: Riitta Pihlajamaki from TV-1 and Paivi Karkkainen from TV-2.

The issue was first reported in the daily Keskisuomalainen on Thursday [9 February].

Source: Helsingin Sanomat website, Helsinki, in Finnish 9 Feb 06

IRAN

10/02/2006 UK: End BBC bias on Iran, says veteran UK peace group

Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA website

London, 10 February: The veteran Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) peace group held a protest demonstration outside the BBC's headquarters Thursday [9 February], calling on Britain's state-funded broadcasters to end their media bias in reporting on the Iran nuclear issue.

"Regular BBC News items raise Iran's possible violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] without any mention of the major breach by all the declared nuclear weapon states," CND said.

The peace group referred to the five permanent members of the Security Council still deploying over 13,000 nuclear weapons between them in breach of the NPT obliging them to disarm.

"Iran may or may not be in breach of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but the UK is," CND said in a statement obtained by IRNA.

"The UK is making no efforts to disarm as obliged under the treaty and a recent legal opinion even stated that the UK may in fact be in breach of the NPT if it replaces the UK's nuclear weapons system," it said.

The peace group, one of Europe's oldest and largest, said it was handing in another letter to the Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors, requesting a meeting to discuss the corporation's plans for fairly covering nuclear issues in the future.

It follows CND writing to the BBC on 31 January complaining about its failure to mention the major breach of the NPT by the declared nuclear weapons state in a news item on its radio flagship current affairs programme Today.

"If Iran is culpable, so to a much more serious degree is this country. We would like to know as soon as possible if you are willing to run an item making these points," said the letter signed by CND chair Kate Hudson and vice-president Bruce Kent.

Source: IRNA website, Tehran, in English 1315 gmt 10 Feb 06

JORDAN

10/02/2006 Jordan: Two editors held for publishing cartoons denied bail again

Text of report in English by Jordan Times newspaper on 10 February; ellipsis as published

Chief editors of the two weekly tabloids, Shihan and Al Mihwar were denied bail for the second time on Thursday [9 February], according to a statement released by the Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ).

Jihad Momani and Hashem Khalidi, who had been released on bail on Sunday [5 February], were rearrested on Monday after the Press and Publication Department filed a lawsuit against them for republishing offensive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

Momani, former editor-in-chief of the weekly tabloid Shihan, published three of the cartoons on 2 February, while Khalidi, chief editor of Al Mihwar weekly reprinted the caricatures on 26 January.

The 12 cartoons were first published in September by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and have sparked widespread protests in the Muslim world.

Also on Thursday, Momani's first hearing in the Conciliation Court was adjourned until 16 February, after his lawyer Mohmmad Quteishat told the judge that his client's health prevented him from attending the session.

Momani and Khalidi are both in hospital "due to stress and exhaustion... They are in stable condition, under police arrest in hospital," according to Nidal Mansour, head of CDFJ.

The two journalists were admitted to hospital after they complained of chest pains, according to their doctors.

"The centre will submit another request to free Momani and Khalidi next Sunday," the statement said.

The two journalists face charges in two separate courts for the same offence. Initially, they were charged with defaming the Prophet. However, according to the second charge they are accused of "insulting God".

They have pleaded "not guilty" and said their intention was to drum up public support for the campaign against the Danish and Norwegian newspapers that published the cartoons.

Meanwhile, officials from the Jordan Press Association (JPA) said they would meet next week to study claims that two other local newspapers, Al Ghad Arabic daily and the Star weekly, had published cartoons deemed offensive.

"We will look into this matter in our meeting next week and if it is true, we will take necessary measures according to our bylaws," said Emad Abdul Rahman, a JPA council member.

The JPA has referred Momani and Khalidi to a disciplinary committee for publishing the cartoons.

Abdul Rahman said the JPA objects to the arrest of the two editors or any other journalist.

"The editors cannot be punished twice. We have referred them to a disciplinary committee, therefore the government should leave the matter to us," he told The Jordan Times.

Source: Jordan Times, Amman, in English 10 Feb 06

10/02/2006 Jordanian editor's court appearance over cartoons postponed owing to ill-health

Text of report by Muhammad Bin-Husayn "Weekly chief editors again denied bail", published in English by Jordan Times newspaper on 10 February

Amman - Chief editors of the two weekly tabloids, Shihan and Al-Mihwar [who published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad] were denied bail for the second time on Thursday [9 February], according to a statement released by the Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ).

Jihad Mumani and Hashim Khalidi, who had been released on bail on Sunday, were rearrested on Monday after the Press and Publication Department filed a lawsuit against them for republishing offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Mumani, former editor-in-chief of the weekly tabloid Shihan, published three of the cartoons on Feb. 2, while Khalidi, chief editor of Al Mihwar weekly reprinted the caricatures on Jan. 26.

The 12 cartoons were first published in September by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and have sparked widespread protests in the Muslim world.

Also on Thursday, Mumani's first hearing in the Conciliation Court was adjourned until Feb.16, after his lawyer Muhmmad Qutayshat told the judge that his client's health prevented him from attending the session.

Mumani and Khalidi are both in hospital "due to stress and exhaustion... They are in stable condition, under police arrest in hospital," according to Nidal Mansur, head of CDFJ.

The two journalists were admitted to hospital after they complained of chest pains, according to their doctors.

"The centre will submit another request to free Mumani and Khalidi next Sunday," the statement said.

The two journalists face charges in two separate courts for the same offence. Initially, they were charged with defaming the Prophet. However, according to the second charge they are accused of "insulting God".

They have pleaded "not guilty" and said their intention was to drum up public support for the campaign against the Danish and Norwegian newspapers that published the cartoons.

Meanwhile, officials from the Jordan Press Association (JPA) said they would meet next week to study claims that two other local newspapers, Al-Ghad Arabic daily and the Star weekly, had published cartoons deemed offensive.

"We will look into this matter in our meeting next week and if it is true, we will take necessary measures according to our bylaws," said Imad Abd-al-Rahman, a JPA council member.

The JPA has referred Mumani and Khalidi to a disciplinary committee for publishing the cartoons.

Abd-al-Rahman said the JPA objects to the arrest of the two editors or any other journalist.

"The editors cannot be punished twice. We have referred them to a disciplinary committee, therefore the government should leave the matter to us," he told The Jordan Times.

Source: Jordan Times, Amman, in English 10 Feb 0

WEST BANK & GAZA

07/02/2006 West Bank and Gaza: Hamas calls time on Western-style broadcasts

In a recent report by UK based More4 TV, highlighting the implications for the broadcast media following January's Palestinian elections, the victors, Hamas, have begun to exert their authority by applying "social pressure" that may compel radio stations currently airing modern, western-style programming to adopt a strictly Islamic-based format.

At the core of this battle of the airwaves is Gaza FM, a fledgling independent popular-music focussed station, broadcasting on 100.9 MHz. When interviewed, presenter Jayyabu Abu Safia said "The new rules brought by Hamas will ask us to play the Koran for hours".

Fearing retribution by Hamas, the station's managers have responded by pulling Jayyabu's programme and no longer play any Western music.

When asked to comment, Fadhi Hamad of Hamas responded by saying "We'll hold discussions with all radio stations to request they stop this kind of [Western] music and, God willing, we'll succeed. A large number have already been persuaded, and we hope the rest will follow".

The presenters at the defeated Fatah party's radio station continue to play music by popular Arab artists, in defiance of Hamas. Ahmed Zoghbor, Fatah radio manager said "Hamas will be punished if they tamper with our rights, our freedom of expression. Palestinians will understand what they're doing is wrong and punish them."

Following its programmes, Gaza FM regularly receives phone calls from fundamentalists. Jayyabu has said that he would be prepared to leave the country because he was in fear of the death threats that he and his colleagues have had to endure since Hamas took control.

AFGHANISTAN

28/02/2006 Afghanistan: Culture minister rewards media commission members

Text of report by Afghan state TV on 28 February

[Presenter] The media law, which was previously drawn up by the cabinet and approved by the president in nine chapters and 42 articles, was discussed today. My colleague, Mohammad Kabir Omarzai, has further details on the subject:

[Correspondent] The media law was first drawn up by experts but rejected after a debate [by officials and journalists in Kabul]. However, some 300 journalists then reviewed the law and proposed to the officials to form a commission and amend the draft.

To this end, a commission comprising Afghan journalists and foreign observers was set up to bring about the necessary reforms.

To appreciate the efforts of this commission, the Information, Culture and Tourism Ministry presented a letter of appreciation to the members of the commission.

Surprisingly, the ministry also presented a letter of appreciation to Mr Afghanzai, head of the [private] Afghan TV, which has been fined 50,000 afghanis [approximately 1,000 US dollars]. But the proprietor of the television station did not attend the ceremony. This comes at a time when his case is still under investigation.

Source: National Television Afghanistan, Kabul, in Dari 1430 gmt 28 Feb 06

EGYPT

28/03/2006 Television continues to dominate Egyptian media market

A survey carried out in Egypt for the BBC by the MORI market research company in late 2005, and published in March 2006, illustrates the listening and viewing habits of 2,101 respondents. The poll reveals that television continues to dominate the Egyptian media market, while more listeners are turning to domestic radio stations despite a lack of trust in domestic-produced news. Internet usage remains low amongst those surveyed, and has grown only marginally since the last poll, carried in out in 2004.

Television dominates market

According to the MORI poll, Egypt remains a closed state-controlled market, with television the dominant medium. Access to televisions is universal, with 99 per cent of respondents having a TV in the home. 37 per cent have access to cable or satellite TV in the household, continuing the rising trend in uptake of this technology. In comparison, 28 per cent had access in 2004 and 16 per cent in 2003.

The poll identified the following trends in respondents' television viewing habits: 91 per cent watch TV daily, mostly in the evening, with peak viewing time being between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Domestic broadcasters remain more popular than international ones, with 91 per cent of those replying watching a domestic station weekly compared with 40 per cent who watch an international channel.

Al Jazeera's weekly viewing reach far exceeds that of any other international television broadcaster and continues to rise, said the MORI poll. According to the survey, 32 per cent watch it on a weekly basis (up from 28 per cent in 2004 and 15 per cent in 2003).BBC World and BBC Prime combined are watched by 2 per cent while CNN has a weekly audience of 2 per cent, down from 3 per cent in 2004 per cent.

Listeners trust domestic news less

The gap between TV watching and radio listening remains wide, although it has narrowed since the previous survey, carried out in 2004 and published in 2005. Only 58 per cent listen to the radio daily (50 per cent in 2004), compared to the 91 per cent who watch television daily. However, 97 per cent of those surveyed have access to a radio in the home. Radio listening is most prevalent in the morning, especially between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. when around 20 per cent tune in.

According to the survey, 81 per cent of listeners who know which waveband they listen to tune in on medium-wave, with 62 per cent listening to FM and 24 per cent to shortwave. 10 per cent of radio listeners listen in their cars.

Domestic broadcasters dominate the radio market, with 73 per cent listening to a national station weekly while 11 per cent tune in to an international station weekly. Those surveyed said that domestic broadcasters are still considered more trustworthy than international, although the trust in domestic broadcasters has slipped since the 2004 survey. 35 per cent believe that domestic broadcasters are more trustworthy (50 per cent in 2004), with 27 per cent placing more faith in international stations (25 per cent in 2004).

The MORI poll found that religious stations are the most popular type of station, with 75 per cent of those surveyed tuning in to them in a typical week. In contrast, 47 per cent listen to speech-based radio and 34 per cent to stations which play mostly music.

Foreign radio stations lose listeners

Holy Koran Radio remains the most popular station, listened to weekly by 68 per cent (61 per cent in 2004). The state broadcaster ERTU attracted 27 per cent who listen weekly (up from 25 per cent in 2004).

Nagoum FM, a relatively new youth oriented station playing the latest Egyptian and Lebanese pop music, has made good progress in attracting listeners. Their weekly audience stands at 18 per cent, the fourth most popular station after the Holy Koran, ERTU and Al Sharq Al-Awsat (ERTU-controlled Middle East Radio).

Despite showing signs of gaining audience in 2004, levels of weekly listening to the US government-funded pan-Arab station Radio Sawa have fallen, the MORI survey reports. The weekly audience has returned to 2003 levels down from 11 per cent in 2004 to 6 per cent in 2005. The state station Sawt Al Arab (Voice of the Arabs) has also seen its weekly reach decline from 12 per cent in 2004 to 8 per cent, said the survey.

The French-owned RMC (Radio Monte Carlo Middle East) saw its weekly audience fall, from 6 per cent to 4 per cent of those surveyed.

Internet use low, but growing

The internet market remains stable, with 7 per cent accessing the web monthly. This represents a growth of one per cent over the last two years. The internet is most commonly accessed by users at home (56 per cent), and cyber/internet cafes (50 per cent). While access at home has grown slowly, access at cybercafes has increased by 10 per cent since 2004. This suggests that while interest in the internet is growing Egyptians are finding it difficult to afford internet in the home.

The internet is still primarily used to enter chat rooms, by 69 per cent of users. 55 per cent use the internet to access news and 52 per cent of users download music and video. The most popular news site is still Masrawy, (http://www.masrawy.com - a Cairo-based internet portal site) visited weekly by 41 per cent of internet users. Aljazeera.net is the most popular international news site (15 per cent of those online use it weekly).

QATAR

27/03/2006 Qatar: Al-Jazeera production festival begins

Text of report in English by Qatari newspaper The Peninsula website on 27 March

Al-Jazeera TV Channel is holding a festival on TV productions from today [27 March] until Thursday [30 March] at the Doha Sheraton. The festival will be opened at 7 this evening. The festival is being organised under the patronage of Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani, Chairman of Al-Jazeera's Board of Directors, on the occasion of the network's 10th anniversary.

The motto of the festival is "the channel's inclination to communicate with other civilisations and cultures", Waddah Khanfar, Al-Jazeera's director general, said.

"We focus on those who are striving for freedom and facing various forms of discrimination, atrocities and pain. Our objective is to elevate the value of humans regardless of their religion, nationality, colour or ideology," he said.

The festival will attract 75 Arab and international companies, 24 TV channels, 40 personalities and others. The numbers of works competing for the award are more than 250 and these consist of 145 documentary films, 21 investigative press reports, 16 news report, 30 tributes and 43 new horizons. The committee of judges includes 14 prominent Arabs personalities and 14 others from non-Arab states.

Source: The Peninsula website, Doha, in English 27 Mar 06

USA

24/03/2006 USA/Bangladesh: VOA launches first TV programme for Bangladesh

Text of press release by Voice of America on 24 March

The Voice of America (VOA) launched Washington Barta (Washington Talk) today, its first television programming exclusively for Bangladesh. The inaugural programme featured an exclusive interview with Assistant US Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Richard Boucher.

"Our weekly Washington Barta is a five to six minute interview with a top newsmaker on issues concerning US-Bangladesh relations, South Asia, and the people of Bangladesh," said VOA Director David Jackson. "VOA's Bangla radio programmes have been so popular over the years that about 1,000 VOA fan clubs have been created by people who enjoy listening to our programmes. Now we've got something from VOA for them to see on television too."

In an agreement with NTV, a major 24-hour news and entertainment satellite channel based in Dhaka, Washington Barta will air every Friday at 11:20 p.m. (Dhaka time), following NTV's nightly news, and will repeat on Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. (Dhaka time).

VOA's well-known Bangla broadcaster Iqbal Bahar Choudhury hosts the show from VOA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Choudhury, who has been a radio and TV broadcaster since 1949, when he was a child broadcaster, has interviewed every head of government in the history of Bangladesh since 1971, including the founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Future shows will feature interviews of prominent Americans and Bangladeshis, including members of the US Congress, US officials, and Bangladesh officials.

VOA's Bangla Service also broadcasts 90 minutes of radio programming daily. VOA Bangla Service has been on the air since 1958. Additional information can be found at: www.VOANews.com/Bangla/

Source: Voice of America press release, Washington, in English 24 Mar 06

Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465­1004 Fax: (212) 465­9568 Web: www.cpj.org E-Mail: media@cpj.org

http://www.cpj.org Contact: Abi Wright
e-mail: info@cpj.org Telephone: (212) 465-1004 ext. 105

In Egypt, journalists under fire as protests continue

New York, May 25, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by attacks on the Egyptian press related to coverage of alleged election fraud and protests over judicial independence. The Egyptian state security prosecutor brought criminal charges on Wednesday against three journalists who alleged fraud in last year’s parliamentary elections. Security and police officers assaulted several journalists covering demonstrations today in support of judicial independence. And five journalists remain in detention today after being arrested at earlier demonstrations on judicial independence.

“These latest attacks are further evidence of the authorities’ utter contempt for working journalists,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “The government must put an end to this harassment and thuggery at once.”

Charges levied

The prosecutor charged Wael al-Ibrashi and Hoda Abu Bakr, reporters for the independent weekly Sawt al-Umma, and Abdel Hakim Abdel Hamid, editor-in-chief of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated weekly Afaq Arabiya, with insulting and defaming Mahmud Burham, the judge in charge of the electoral commission in Dakhaliya province.

The charges stem from December 2005 articles alleging fraud in the fall elections and calling for formal investigations. Al-Ibrashi told CPJ that the story in his paper listed by initials several judges allegedly involved in vote-rigging. A story in Afaq Arabiya took a similar approach, Agence France-Presse reported. The journalists face up to three years in prison, according to local lawyers.

Allegations of election fraud are at the root of demonstrations that first erupted in April. Protesters demonstrated in support of two senior judges, Mahmoud Mekky and Hesham Bastawisi, who were brought before a disciplinary committee after calling the parliamentary elections fraudulent. Mekky was acquitted but Bastawisi censured on May 18. The judges are considered leaders of the Judges Club, a professional advocacy group that has been campaigning for judicial independence. Judges are now overseen by the Ministry of Justice.

Assaults reported

Today, several journalists covering related demonstrations outside the Egyptian Press Syndicate in Cairo were harassed by people believed to be plainclothes security agents or government-sponsored assailants, journalists told CPJ.

Dina Samak and Dina Gameel, correspondents for the BBC, and Jihan Shouban, a reporter for Sawt al-Umma, were driving to a silent protest by judges outside the High Court when a taxi gave chase and halted their vehicle, the BBC correspondents told CPJ. Around 25 people descended on the journalists’ car, breaking the windows, and attempting to pull the journalists out of the car, they said.

The journalists were traveling with Kareem al-Sha’er, the BBC correspondents said. They said he was a journalist trainee, but they did not know his employer. Al-Sha’er was taken by the assailants, they said, and his whereabouts were not immediately known.

Hossam al-Hamalawy, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, said Egyptian police cordoned off the area outside the Press Syndicate and blocked several journalists from covering the judges’ silent protest. Al-Hamalawy said he tried to get past the police barricade but was pepper-sprayed by a plainclothes security officer. The journalists were not allowed to leave the area for more than an hour.

Journalists still held

And on Tuesday, a state security prosecutor extended for 15 days the detention of two newspaper journalists who were first taken into custody on April 27. Saher al Gad of Al-Geel and Ibrahim Sahari of Al-Alam Al-Youm were at protests on the first day of hearings for the two judges. The journalists were accused of “disturbing public order.”

Nada Al-Kassas, a reporter for the weekly Al-Mawkif Al-Arabi; Alaa Abdel Aziz, a journalist for Afaq Arabiya; and Rasha Azab, an online journalist, saw their detentions extended by 15 days on Sunday, CPJ sources said. They were arrested on May 11.

Last year, CPJ reported that security forces and people believed to have been hired by the ruling party National Democratic Party assaulted numerous reporters covering antigovernment protests and parliamentary elections in November and December.

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.

 

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Copyright 2006 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
TBS is published by the
Adham Center for Electronic Journalism, the American University in Cairo and the Middle East Centre, St. Antony's College, University of Oxford, UK
E-mail: TBS@aucegypt.edu