Version Française. JAKARTA (PNA) – Seventeen journalists from various countries converged here to discuss the topic of “Defamation of Religions versus Press Freedom" during a five-day workshop that ended over the weekend.
The confab was jointly sponsored by the US-based The Media Project, a non-profit organization headed by Dr. Arne Fjeldstad, a veteran journalist from Norway who once was the editor of Aftenposten, Norway’s largest daily newspaper, and Sinar Harapan, one of Indonesia’s leading newspaper headed by its editor Kristanto Hartadi.
The delegates came from Norway, United States, England, China, Sudan, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Cameroon, Russia, Ukraine, and the Philippines.
Each participant presented a paper on the defamation of religions in relation to press freedom in their respective countries.
Paul Marshall, a member of the board of directors of The Media Project and who served as a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religion Freedom, was one of the speakers of the conference.
Award-winning American broadcast journalist Caroline Comport, who is the director of journalism education of the project, served as overall program coordinator.
Other invited speakers were Muhammad Anshor, director of Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia; Dr. Sae Nababan, chairman of Council of World Churches; Prof. Mahfud, and Prof. Dr. Din Syamsudin of Indonesia.
It may be recalled that the United Nations debated on this controversial issue, and in November of 2008, the Human Rights Council working group passed a draft resolution calling on all countries to alter their legal and constitutional systems to prevent "defamation of religions."
The resolution asserted, for example, that such protections are necessary because "Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism."
The Media Project said that “while we applaud the attention the UN is giving to religion, complete prohibitions on defamation of religion could have a chilling effect on free expression.”
The goal of the workshop was to deepen journalists' knowledge of the topic and to educate one another based on participants' real-life experience.