Editor resigns over Muslim cartoons

An editor of a small Malaysian newspaper has resigned for reprinting Danish newspaper caricatures of Prophet Muhammad, which have unleashed a storm of protests across the Islamic world.

In a statement faxed to The Associated Press today, the Sunday Tribune newspaper in remote Sarawak state apologised and expressed “profound regret over the unauthorised publication” of one of the drawings by an editor on duty.

The statement also was published by the newspaper on its front page yesterday, but did not get much publicity in Malaysia because of the remoteness of the state, located on Borneo Island.

The Sunday Tribune, which carried the drawing on its page 12 on Saturday, is the only newspaper in the mainly Muslim country to have reprinted any of the caricatures, which first appeared on September 30 in The Jyllands-Posten daily, one of Denmark’s largest newspapers.

The caricature in the Sunday Tribune had accompanied an article about the lack of impact of the controversy in Malaysia, and carried excerpts of a foreign news article.

The Sunday Tribune statement said the newspaper publisher and the editorial committee feel that “the extract should not have been published at all.”

“Our internal inquiry revealed that the editor on duty, who was responsible for the same publication, had done it all alone by himself without authority in compliance with the prescribed procedures as required for such news,” the statement said.

It added that the editor, who was not identified, has admitted and regretted his oversight and officially written an apology. The editor “has voluntarily resigned forthwith,” the statement said.

“The publisher and editorial committee of Sarawak Tribune (the parent newspaper of the Sunday Tribune) believe there is no excuse for such publication and regret it very much,” the statement said.

Sarawak Tribune has a daily circulation of 48,000 and is confined only to Sarawak, where Muslims are a minority.

“We have no intention of offending Muslims. It was an oversight by the editor who went beyond his duty to add juice to the story, and he has resigned,” Sarawak Tribune’s executive director Polit Hamzah told the AP.

Deputy Internal Security Minister Chia Kwang Chye has criticised Sarawak Tribune for violating guidelines under its printing permit and warned that the government may suspend or withdraw its license if it fails to give a satisfactory explanation.

Hamzah said the newspaper is prepared to provide an explanation, but has not received any letter from the government demanding one.

All newspapers in Malaysia operate on a government license renewable yearly.

Unlike other Islamic countries, the reaction to the publication of the caricatures by The Jyllands-Posten has been muted in Malaysia, where Islamic fundamentalists held a brief but noisy protest outside the Danish Embassy on Friday.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also condemned the drawings on Saturday, calling it “a deliberate act of provocation".

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