As the first newspaper to do so, the Politiken newspaper has reached a settlement with descendants of the Prophet Mohammed in connection with the affront its re-print of drawings of the Prophet Mohammed in 2008 may have caused Muslims.
The settlement was reached between Politiken and eight organisations representing 94,923 of the Prophet Mohammed’s descendants in a move Politiken’s Editor-in-Chief Tøger Seidenfaden says shows that dialogue is the way forward.
“The settlement looks ahead and expresses very sensible views. It may possibly reduce the tensions that have shown themselves to be so resilient. It gives us hope that relations between Denmark, and not least its media, and the Muslim world can be improved,” Seidenfaden says, adding he does not believe Politikens move is a freedom of speech sellout.
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Under the settlement, Politiken has not given up its right to publish the cartoons and does not apologise for having printed them, but rather for the affront felt by some Muslims.
Lawyer Faisal Yamani, who entered into the settlement on behalf of the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed says the settlement is a good one.
“This is a good settlement. It would be wrong to speak of a victory. Both parties have reached the point where they understand the background to what has happened. Politiken is courageous in apologizing, even though its was not their intention to offend anyone,” Yamani says.
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Danish politicians have condemned the move.
“It’s crazy. The media carries offensive material every day. That is what freedom of speech is about,” says Social Democratic Leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Socialist People’s Party Leader Villy Søvndal says that “freedom of speech is not up for negotiation”.
The Danish People’s Party Leader Pia Kjærsgaard says she is ‘speechless’ in finding words to express how absurd the situation is.
“It is deeply, deeply embarrassing that Tøger Seidenfaden has sold out of Denmark’s and the West’s freedom of speech. I cannot distance myself enough from this total sell-out to this doctrine,” Kjærsgaard says.
Neither the prime minister nor the foreign minister have had the opportunity to comment on the issue, but the Liberal Political Spokesman Peter Christensen says “it is strange that Politiken has the need to apologise. I don’t see what there is to apologise for.”
The former Liberal Chairman and Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, however is positive.
“The paper loses nothing by apologizing. In a world full of conflict, where too many paint themselves into a corner, it would be good to see more of these types of attempt to reach a common understanding,” Ellemann Jensen says.
In August last year, a total of 11 Danish newspapers were approached by Yamani with demands that the cartoons be removed from Internet pages, that media apologized and that they promised not to re-print the cartoons in question, or others, again.
Politiken is the only newspaper that has chosen to reach a settlement, at the same time avoiding attempts by the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed to sue the newspaper.
Berlingske Tidende, Jyllands-Posten and Kristeligt Dagblad are some of the media that have received Yamani’s letter. Tha Saudi lawyer hopes that these media will show interest in a settlement, but the three newspapers have told Politiken that they have no interest in a settlement in which they apologise.
MorgenAvisen Jyllands-Posten’s Editor-in-Chief Jørn Mikkelsen says it is regrettable that Politiken has folded, instead of continuing the case with the other newspapers.
“Politiken has betrayed the battle for freedom of speech. They’ve given up and bowed to threats. That is, of course, disgraceful,” Mikkelsen says.
Edited by Julian Isherwood