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Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2006

Media restraint urged on Muhammad cartoons


Staff writer

The Foreign Ministry has recommended that Japan's media organizations not reprint contentious caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, after angry demonstrators torched the Danish embassies in Lebanon and Syria over the weekend and other violence has erupted.

The ministry informally urged all media outlets that belong to its press club Monday not to carry any of the 12 cartoons first printed in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten daily in September out of consideration for Muslims' feelings and concerns of triggering attacks on Japanese.

The ministry also sent requests to the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association and the Japanese Magazine Publishers Association, urging their members to refrain from publishing the cartoons.

"If they find out Japanese newspapers or magazines carried the caricatures, they may start attacking Japanese embassies or companies abroad," said a senior Foreign Ministry official who asked not to be named.

The government cannot force the media not to publish the cartoons because of Japan's freedom of expression, the official said.

Media organizations were divided on whether to comply with the request. A reporter at a television station, who asked not to be named, said the company has yet to decide whether to air the cartoons.

The Asahi Shimbun said that despite its respect for the freedom of expression, it would not publish the caricatures out of consideration of the feelings of Muslims.

Meanwhile, the Japan Islamic Trust, a Tokyo-based Islamic religious organization, asked the Japanese media not to run the illustrations, while calling on Muslims living in Japan not to resort to violence.

Yoshinori Katori, press secretary for the Foreign Ministry, expressed concern that the caricatures are creating "a difficult situation."

Katori said in a statement that although Japan understands the distress felt by Muslims, violence and vandalism is not acceptable under any circumstances.

"We urge all parties concerned to reduce the tension and to refrain from any action or statement that might aggravate the situation," he said.



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