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International14 February 2006

Reporters Without Borders and Arab Commission for Human Rights stage conference in Paris to try to restore dialogue in Mohammed cartoons crisis

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Reporters Without Borders, the Arab Commission for Human Rights and five other rights groups (the European Islamic Conference, Justitia Universalis, the Rencontre culturelle euro-arabe, Voix Libre and the Association of Human Rights Defenders) organised a conference in Paris on 9 February in an effort to restart a dialogue over publication of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed and find a way out of the violence this has caused.

Fifteen speakers (including journalists, philosophers, writers, religious officials, a lawyer and a diplomat) called for talks and a calmer approach and urged an end to the violent reactions to the printing of the cartoons.

Several spoke about what publishing the cartoons meant while others said freedom of expression must go hand-in-hand with respect for religious beliefs.


Some said a similar conference should be held in the Middle East to try to come up with practical suggestions to end the crisis. Reporters Without Borders pointed out that the crisis had led to increased attacks on press freedom, including two journalists imprisoned in Jordan, one in danger of prison in Yemen and three sacked from their jobs in Algeria. A newspaper in Morocco was also being investigated.


The conference was chaired by Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard and Haytham Mana, spokesman for the Arab Commission for Human Rights.

An account of the proceedings will be posted on the Reporters Without Borders website.

Those taking part:
-  Régis Debray, French philosopher.
-  Mohamed Bechari, president of the French National Muslim Federation and vice-president of the French Muslim Council.
-  Odon Vallet, French historian, doctor of religious sciences, author of the Petit lexique des guerres de religion d’hier et aujourd’hui (Editions Albin Michel).
-  Nawaf Naman, from the Kuwaiti embassy in France.
-  Soheib Bencheikh, researcher in Islamic science and former mufti of Marseilles.
-  René Petillon, cartoonist on the French satirical paper Le Canard enchaîné.
-  Lakhdar Belaïd, journalist from the French daily France-Soir.
-  Arnaud Lévy, editor of France-Soir.
-  Axel Krause (USA), secretary-general of the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris.
-  Denis Garreau, a lawyer with the French Conseil d’Etat and the Cour de cassation (supreme court).
-  Rachid Benzine (Morocco), Islamic expert and writer, and author of Nouveaux penseurs de l’islam (Editions Albin Michel).
-  Moncef Marzouki (Tunisia),
-  Abbas Aroua (Algeria), writer and academic.
-  Marek Halter, French writer.
-  Noel Copin, former managing editor of the French Catholic daily La Croix

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