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France7 February 2006

Bomb hoax at France-Soir follows similar threats against other European newspapers

Reporters Without Borders today roundly condemned the bomb threats of the past week against the French daily France-Soir and three other European newspapers that have published the controversial Mohammed cartoons

“Even if the publication of caricatures of Mohammed may have shocked Muslim sensibilities, there is no justification for the use of violence,” the press freedom organisation said, appealing again for dialogue and tolerance.

A telephoned bomb threat was received at 1 p.m. yesterday at the Issy-les-Moulineaux headquarters of France-Soir, which reprinted the cartoons on 1 February. Police immediately evacuated the building and set up a security perimeter. Staff were finally allowed to re-enter the building a few hours later.

France-Soir’s staff declined to make any comment about the incident to Reporters Without Borders.

Similar threats have been made in the past week against other European newspapers that published the cartoons, either as part of a news story or in the name of press freedom. The Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, which was the first to print the cartoons, last September, was the target of two bomb hoaxes in the space of 48 hours, on 31 January and 1 February.

A fire extinguisher suspected of being a bomb was found on 5 February in front of the building that houses the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Security has been stepped up at the newspaper, which has dedicated its 8 February issue to the Danish cartoons. The Dutch daily De Volkskrant received an e-mail message on 3 February warning that a bomb was about to go off inside its headquarters.

France-Soir drawn into storm over Danish cartoons

2nd February 2006

Reporters Without Borders voiced “incomprehension” today at the decision by the owner of the French daily France-Soir, Raymond Lakah, to dismiss his editor for publishing the 12 caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that were previously published in a Danish newspaper.

Lakah’s reference to the need to “respect the beliefs and convictions of each individual” is particularly inopportune at a time that the newspaper is being censored in Tunisia and Morocco and French citizens are being threatened as a result of the publication of the cartoons, the press freedom organisation said.

“This is a disturbing and dangerous precedent for editorial freedom,” Reporters Without Borders continued. “This will not help to defuse tension but, on the contrary, will tend to radicalize positions on all sides even more.”

France-Soir editor Jacques Lefranc decided to publish the Mohammed cartoons in yesterday’s issue in a gesture of solidarity with the Danish journalists who have been under fire in Muslim countries, and in order to reaffirm the principle of free expression.

The Tunisian authorities seized today’s issue on the grounds that its content was offensive to Muslims. The Moroccan communication ministry also banned the newspaper and criticised the “fallacious pretexts of the defence of press freedom.” The Moroccan Islamist daily Attajdid called for France-Soir to be “punished.”

Palestinian armed groups meanwhile threatened to “target” all French, Norwegian and Danish citizens in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank because the cartoons have been published by newspapers in those countries.

Reporters Without Borders today issued a special appeal for calm and dialogue as the controversy over the cartoons moved in disturbing new directions.

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