United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today spoke out against those publishers who “pour oil on the fire” by reprinting controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad while repeating his condemnation of the violent protests they have sparked.
“Honestly, I do not understand why any newspaper will publish the cartoons today,” Mr. Annan told reporters at UN Headquarters in his most extensive spontaneous comments on the controversy. “It is insensitive, it is offensive, it is provocative, and they should see what has happened around the world.”
He was quick to add that he was not against freedom of speech or freedom of the press. “I am for that, but as I have indicated in the past, freedom of speech is not a license. It does entail exercising responsibility and judgment, and quite honestly I cannot understand why any editor will publish cartoons at this time which inflames, and pours oil on the fire.”
Asked about the role of governments, he replied, “We all need to take steps to calm the situation and whatever the anger of those concerned, violence is not the answer.”
He also stressed that innocent civilians should not be targeted. “They should not attack people who are not responsible for the publication of the cartoons. Whether it is a general condemnation of Denmark, or Europeans, it is wrong. They should really avoid doing that, and violence must be condemned as unacceptable.”
On Tuesday, the Secretary-General, along with the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the European Union’s (EU) senior representative for foreign and security policy, issued a joint statement calling for calm and dialogue among communities of different faiths.