Freedom and responsibility

NO FREEDOM is absolute. Freedom is certainly not the freedom to provoke or hurt others’ sentiments. More so when it comes to religious sentiments, as that’s where it hurts the most.

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Published: Sun 1 Apr 2007, 8:35 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:49 AM

It is in this context that the UN Human Rights Council has condemned instances of defamation of religion and emphasised the point, in the context of the Danish cartoon controversy, that press freedom has its limits. The Council has endorsed a resolution sponsored by Muslim and Arab states, and supported by China, Russia and Cuba, that expressed concern at negative stereotyping of religions and attempts to identify Islam with terrorism. Acts of terror are individual acts. Linking such acts with religion, as the Western media often does, is a matter of serious concern.

The resolution has rightly urged countries to ensure their laws give adequate protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion, resulting from defamation of religions”. And, more importantly, “while everybody has the right to freedom of expression, this should be exercised according to limitations of law and respect for others, including respect for religions and beliefs”.

The job of the media is to hold a mirror onto the society, and reflect the life in its essence and truthfully. That job should, however, not be at the cost of social harmony, or in any irresponsible ways. That is why media personnel are called upon to exercise restraint and act in judicious ways.

The Danish cartoon controversy was one of the worst examples of misuse of media freedom. In the first place, such cartoons should not have been drawn at all. And, publishing is a serious business. It is here that a sense of judgment is needed at its best. For, we cannot play with public sentiments. The Danish cartoon controversy proved how damaging such reckless acts of publication can turn out to be.

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