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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Wednesday, August 15, 2018

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Indonesian newspaper faces blasphemy charges over Islamic State flag

five years in prison over an alleged blasphemous cartoon

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JAKARTA, Indonesia - A newspaper editor Indonesia faces five years in prison over an alleged blasphemous cartoon of an Islamic State flag with skull and bones and Arabic phrase "there is no God but Allah" was published to criticize the militant group that has established an Islamist nation in its controlled territories of Syria and Iraq.

The Jakarta Post editor, who was named in a defamation case, has defended the publication of the cartoon with the phrase that is considered as the first most sacred sentence in Islam.

The Post, a leading English language daily in Indonesia, called the cartoon a "journalistic piece" that was published in July. The depiction has replaced the oval shape on the Islamic State flag with skull and crossbones with religious phrase "Laa ilaaha illallaah", meaning "there is no God but Allah" within the danger sign.

It also shows Muhammad, the Prophet's name, inside the skull shape.

The newspaper said the cartoon was to criticize the use of religious symbols in acts of violence by the Islamic State.

Some Muslim groups in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, viewed the cartoon as offensive. The Post has already apologised after it retracted the cartoon. It said that it regretted the "error in judgment".

But the police named the editor-in chief of the Jakarta Post, Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, as a suspect in the case. A police spokesman told the BBC that the editor could be summoned next week and faces five years in prison for the alleged religious blasphemy.

Suryodiningrat however denied he had committed any crime in publishing the cartoon.

"We have received information on the matter and currently we are still studying it," Suryodiningrat said in a statement posted on the newspaper's website late Thursday.

"What we produced was a journalistic piece that criticized the ISIS ... which has carried out violence in the name of religion."

The media in the country is said to be enjoying broad freedom since the establishment of democratic rule in Indonesia in late 1990s.

However, at least 106 people have been convicted in Indonesia under blasphemy laws, some who have been imprisoned for up to five years since 2004, according to Amnesty International.

The rights group has condemned the police move. In a statement the group said the incident went against President Joko Widodo's commitment to press freedom in Indonesia.

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