Russia clamps down on religious insults

Katy Duke
Wednesday February 15, 2006

After the recent Muslim caricature controversy, Russian media organisations have been ordered not to publish anything that could be construed as offensive to any religion or risk losing their licences.

Russia's media and culture watchdog, The Federal Service for the Oversight of Legislation in Mass Communications and the Protection of Cultural Heritage, has pledged to take a tough line against any organisation accused of "insulting religious feelings".

A spokesman said: "Measures envisaged in Russian legislation, including the cancellation of registration, will be taken if any Russian media issue materials insulting religious feelings."

The statement follows recent demonstrations around the world by Muslims protesting against satirical cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that first appeared in a Danish newspaper.

Today's announcement was followed by the launch of an investigation by the Russian Prosecutor General's office into a Volgograd newspaper that recently published a religious cartoon.

The cartoon, which appeared in Gorodskiye Izvestia, depicted Jesus Christ, the prophet Muhammad, Moses and Buddha watching TV pictures of two groups of people preparing for a fight. The caption under read: "We did not teach them to do that..."

The regional prosecutor, Leonid Belyak, wrote in a letter to the newspaper's editor: "Given the realities of the complicated inter-religious situation in the world and Russia, publications of such cartoons may provoke an inappropriate reaction from believers, may give extremist forces cause to incite religious discord and have very negative consequences.",,1710422,00.html