Embassy on alert for cartoon backlash
Saturday Apr 1 17:24 AEDT
Australia's embassy in Jakarta has been alerted to prepare for a possible backlash following the publication in an Australian newspaper of a cartoon depicting the Indonesian president as a dog copulating with a Papuan.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on Saturday condemned the cartoon in The Weekend Australian as tasteless and offensive, declaring the government did not condone it in any way.
The cartoon is an apparent tit-for-tat response to a cartoon published this week in an Indonesian newspaper depicting Mr Downer and Prime Minister John Howard as copulating dingoes.
"The government is aware that this cartoon is likely to cause significant offence to people in Indonesia and we would wish to disassociate the government completely from this tasteless cartoon," Mr Downer told reporters in Adelaide.
"We have been in communication with our embassy. They have concerns that there will be a negative reaction by the Indonesians to material like this which is extremely offensive."
In The Weekend Australian cartoon, by well known artist and cartoonist Bill Leak, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono appears as a dominant dog, tail wagging as he mounts a Papuan with bone in nose, saying: "Don't take this the wrong way ..."
The caption reads: "No Offence Intended."
The Indonesian cartoon was headlined "The adventure of two dingo" (sic) and showed Mr Howard as the dominant dog, shaking his tail while telling the foreign minister: "I want Papua!! Alex! Try to make it happen!"
The cartoon was published in the Islamic-leaning Rakyat Merdeka (People's Freedom) and was prompted by Australia granting temporary visas to 42 Papuan asylum seekers who arrived by boat.
Indonesian nationalists accuse Canberra of secretly plotting the breakaway of the province of Papua, likening it to the 1999 independence crisis in East Timor.
Indonesia recalled its ambassador to Australia in response.
Mr Downer on Saturday called for a halt to the tit-for-tat cartoons, issuing an official statement in Australia and Jakarta.
"The Australian Government does not condone in any way the publication of the main cartoon in today's edition of The Weekend Australian. It disassociated itself from it," he said in the statement.
"From a personal perspective, I find the cartoon tasteless and offensive and see no merit of any kind in its publication."
Mr Downer said he thought editors had a responsibility to be mindful of the consequences of what they publish, particularly when they knowingly publish material likely to be found offensive in some quarters.
He told reporters The Weekend Australian, like all Australian newspapers, was free to publish what it liked and Australia had a proud history of freedom of speech and expression.
"People are entitled to publish material which is tasteless and offensive to others, but the Australian government doesn't want in any way to be associated with this," he said.
"We didn't initiate the cartoon, we had no say over the publication.
"The first I knew about it was when I saw it at breakfast this morning."