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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Distasteful cartoons no licence for murder


Release time: immediate

A death sentence on two Swedish journalists by Muslim extremists is condemned by the Chartered Institute of Journalists in a statement issued today. The journalists, artist Lars Vilks and editor Ulf Johansson drew and published a “distasteful” cartoon in the Nerikes Alehanda regional newspaper.

The cartoon depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a dog. It was published, claims the editor, to draw attention to threats to freedom of expression in Sweden.

It sparked angry reactions among Muslims, in particular in the Arab world. A death sentence on the two Swedes responsible was announced on September 15 on an Islamic website. A terrorist claiming to be leader of the “Islamic State of Iraq” called for the murder of Vilks and Johansson and offered a cash reward. The Islamic State of Iraq group is understood to be connected to insurgency groups in Iraq, including the local chapter of Al Qaeda.

“Distasteful cartoons are no licence for murder,” said the CIoJ.  “While the cartoon was unnecessarily offensive – no responsible editor should publish a drawing or article insulting the head or symbol of a religion revered by millions – it is totally unacceptable for anyone to solicit the death of an artist or editor for publishing a cartoon which he considers insulting.”

“Toleration and freedom of speech are inseparable twins,” said CIoJ President John Thorpe. “Freedom of the media and freedom of expression are essential for a tolerant democratic society and we must accept each other’s right to have different opinions.  If people disagree strongly, let them speak out. But in no circumstances is disagreement an excuse for violence.”

Press contact: Dominic Cooper, tel. 0207 252 1187, email

Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ), 2 Dock Offices, Surrey Quays Road, London SE16 2XU. Website

Notes for Editors:

Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.