Arab journalists arrested in cartoon controversy

This is practically Orwellian. Is the Algerian regime using the printing of the anti-Islam cartoons—blurred and denounced—as an excuse to crack down on pro-Islamist newspapers? From Al-Jazeera, Feb. 13:

Algeria and Yemen have arrested journalists working for newspapers that have reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that led to protests around the world.

On Sunday, Algeria closed two newspapers and arrested their editors for printing the images of the cartoons of the Prophet. Kahel Bousaad and Berkane Bouderbala, respectively editors of the pro-Islamist weeklies, Errisala and Iqraa, were detained last week and will appear before an investigating judge in Algiers on Monday, staff of the two Arabic newspapers said.

A member of Iqraa’s staff said: “The cartoons published in our weekly were [deliberately] fogged. They were accompanied by an article denouncing them.” The authorities were not immediately available for comment.

The Algerian authorities have condemned the cartoons and urged the Danish government to punish those behind their publication.

Reprinting in Yemen
Yemen detained three journalists on Sunday and is seeking a fourth after closing three publications that printed the cartoons. Al-Hurriya, Yemen Observer and al-Rai al-Aam were shut and their case sent to prosecutors.

The officials said those detained are Mohammad al-Asaadi, the editor-in-chief of the English-language Yemen Observer, Akram Sabra, the managing editor of al-Hurriya weekly newspaper and reporter Yehiya al-Abed of Hurriya.

The prosecution has issued a warrant for Kamal al-Aalafi, the editor-in-chief of al-Rai al-Aam.

The Yemeni journalists’ association called for the release of the journalists and for the annulment of the closure decrees “because these measures were not ordered by a court”.

“Reprinting the drawings was in the framework of responding to what the Danish newspaper published and informing the public about the offence to the Prophet,” the message said.

This is not the first time the cartoons have appeared in the Arab press. In October, the Egyptian Newspaper Al Fagr printed and condemned the cartoons, and last month two Jordanian newspapers published the images.

Jordan arrested Hashem al-Khalidi, editor-in-chief of a weekly tabloid called Al-Mehwar and Jihad Momani, the former editor-in-chief of Shihane newspaper.

Around the world
Also on Sunday, Turks pelted the French consulate in Istanbul with eggs as about 2500 demonstrators shouted “Down with America, Israel and Denmark,” in the latest protests against the publication of the cartoons.

In a giant drawing, hanging from the walls of Istanbul’s Beyazid Mosque, the demonstrators depicted the United States as a man who attacked Islam’s holy book, the Quran, by using a dog – draped in the Danish and European Union flags.

In Jakarta, Hassan Wirajuda, Indonesia’s foreign minister, said Denmark’s decision to withdraw its consular staff from the country amid anger over the cartoons was unnecessary.

He said daily protests against the drawings in the world’s most populous Muslim nation had so far been “orderly enough” and that police had boosted security at Denmark’s diplomatic facilities.

The Danish Foreign Ministry said late on Saturday that all its consular staff, including the ambassador, had been temporarily withdrawn from Indonesia because they had received threats in relation to the cartoon row, but provided no details.

Muslims held a series of largely peaceful demonstrations in European cities, including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Berne.

The cartoons have now been published in Australia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Fiji, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, Ukraine and Yemen.

See our last posts on the cartoon controversy and Algeria.