The organization, whose membership includes 76 national newspaper associations, also expressed its support for the Swedish publishing community in the ongoing row surrounding the publication of a caricature depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog.
The August 18th publication of the cartoon in Nerikes Allehanda sparked outrage among Muslims in Sweden and abroad. Demonstrations were held outside the newspaper’s offices and ambassadors representing Muslim countries were invited for talks with the Swedish Prime Minister.
“While appreciating that the publication of the drawing may have caused offence to many Muslims, WAN emphasizes that the Nerikes Allehanda enjoys full freedom of expression and that a choice to publish the drawing falls within that right and should be duly respected,” the association said in statement.
The Paris-based organization also pointed to the fact that the cartoon had been published in connection with an editorial by Ulf Johansson discussing the importance of freedom of expression.
“WAN, the global organisation of the world’s press, fully supports the Swedish publishing community’s defence of its right to freedom of expression with regards to Islam or any other religion, particularly when the religion is an essential element of the global political debate.”