The Economist magazine pulls controversial cartoon out of copies printed in Singapore

An issue of The Economist. -- PHOTO: ZAO BAO
An issue of The Economist. -- PHOTO: ZAO BAO

SINGAPORE - The Economist magazine has pulled a page out of copies of its latest edition that were printed in Singapore, which would have included a picture of French magazine Charlie Hebdo's latest cover.

In its place was a blank page briefly explaining that in most editions, the page included a picture showing the current cover of Charlie Hebdo.

But The Economist's Singapore printer, Times Printers, declined to print the photo.

The satirical magazine's Paris offices were attacked on Jan 7 by two terrorists, who killed 12.

Its latest cover depicts Prophet Muhammad shedding a single tear and holding up a sign reading "Je Suis Charlie" (I am Charlie) that had become a rallying cry for free speech for some, under the headline "All is forgiven".

The Economist also included a link to a website for readers who wanted to see the missing page - part of an article on the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

Times Printers said in a media statement on Friday that The Economist told them it had decided to publish the cover in their United Kingdom, Asia, United States and Europe editions, and asked the printer to let them know if it had any concerns.

"We consulted and registered our concerns with The Economist. After deliberation, The Economist sent out a replacement page to us which we have printed accordingly," the statement added.

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim told reporters he appreciated the printer's decision not to print the cartoon.

"We will not allow the circulation of the cartoons here in Singapore," he said on Friday.

"There is no such thing as freedom of expression without limits... The right to speak freely and sensitively must come together," said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.

Social and Family Development minister Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post on Friday: "We must never attack the religious beliefs that people hold dear."

The Media Development Authority (MDA) said it took note of the printer's decision - and that of other Singapore media - not to reproduce the cartoon.

"This shows our industry's understanding of the sensitivities involved, as well as their respect for racial and religious harmony in Singapore," it said.

MDA added it would not have allowed such a cartoon to be circulated as it is religiously insensitive and flouts the Undesirable Publications Act and the content guidelines for imported publications.