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EU Justice Commissioner calls for media code as Muslim cartoons controversy rages

[JURIST] EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini [official website] said in an interview published Thursday that the EU may draw up a new media code of conduct to forestall any repetition of the global controversy now raging over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive] in European newspapers. Speaking [interview report] to the London Telegraph newspaper, he noted that Muslims felt "humiliated" by the drawings and urged European media to agree to a charter that would allow them to "self-regulate" when reporting on religion, emphasizing that "the exercising of a right is always the assumption of a responsibility". In this way, he said,

the press will give the Muslim world the message: we are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression, we can and we are ready to self-regulate that right.
The contemplated code would be drawn up by press outlets themselves with the assistance of the European Commission; it would not have formal legal status and would not be legally enforceable by EU authorities against offenders, but could have a persuasive and informally mitigating effect. Frattini first sought to intervene in the cartoons controversy Tuesday, when he issued a statement [text; JURIST report] calling the publication of the Muhammad caricatures "somewhat imprudent," while acknowledging that freedom of expression was a "'founding principle' of most European nations."

In other developments in the cartoons controversy, large scale but peaceful protests took place Thursday in Lebanon and in Bangladesh. In Beirut, where a crowd attacked and burned the Danish embassy [JURIST report] Saturday, an estimated 300,000 Shiite Muslims marched in a traditional Ashura [BBC backgrounder] mourning observation that turned into a mass cartoons protest. The leader of the Hezbollah guerrilla group told the marchers that Muslims would insist on getting a full apology from Denmark and wanted the EU to pass laws against insulting the Prophet. Reuters has more. Meanwhile about 2000 Muslims rallied around the main mosque in Dhaka, Bangladesh. They shouted "burn the Danish embassy" and torched Danish flags but took no further action. AFP has more.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused the governments of Iran and Syria [State Department transcript] of encouraging some of the protests and agitation, saying "they have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes, and the world ought to call them on it." Syrian Ambassador to Washington Imad Moustapha [embassy website] immediately denied the allegations, saying "We in Syria believe anti-Western sentiments are being fueled by two major things: the situation in Iraq and the situation in the occupied territories, the West Bank and Gaza." CNN has more.

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