Animated news on killing of bin Laden 'offensive'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 May, 2011, 12:00am

A Hong Kong Muslim leader calls the film 'offensive and inappropriate'. An Islamic studies lecturer says it's an insult to Muslims. A journalism professor says the Next Media product 'crosses a line'.

Will the Apple Daily publisher's 'animated news' depicting the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden expose Hong Kong to risk, as one contributor to a local internet forum fears - perhaps mindful of the attacks on a Danish newspaper and its cartoonist prompted by its publication five years ago of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed that Muslims deemed offensive?

The minute-long animation, which blends actual footage with fictional content and looks like a video game, is indecent, crude and grossly exaggerates the events of early Monday morning when elite US navy troops stormed the Pakistan hideout of the al-Qaeda chief, blamed for the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Scenes depict blood, violence and even sex. The clip came with both Chinese and English subtitles.

Faced with a backlash, Hong Kong-based Next Media removed the animation from its websites within hours of publishing it on Monday.But copies have appeared on overseas internet websites, in web forums and on Facebook. It is not clear how many people have watched it - but one of the many websites that carried it recorded more than 25,000 hits since the clip was posted.

Hong Kong's chief imam, Muhammad Arshad, said: 'I believe this is not sending any good message. Some of the offensive messages are unwatchable. It may hurt the sentiment of Muslims.'

Andy Yu Chi-chung, a lecturer on Islamic studies at the University of Hong Kong's school of professional and continuing education, agreed the clip could anger Muslims.

Many people left messages on a popular local internet forum, Discuss Hong Kong, condemning the clip. 'This could expose Hong Kong to unnecessary risks. This has gone too far,' one message reads.

When, five years ago, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet, including one by illustrator Kurt Westergaard showing the Prophet with a bomb in his turban, the cartoonist was subject to a string of attacks - one with an axe - and the newspaper was also targeted. Five people were arrested in December for plotting a gun attack on its premises. Islam considers any image of the Prophet to be offensive.

To Yiu-ming, assistant professor of the Department of Journalism at Baptist University, said the animation included many fictional elements about the killing of bin Laden and the whole incident was presented in a sensational way.

'This animation is unacceptable and totally crosses a line. Many details are factually incorrect, and clearly the content offends readers from different cultures as well.' Next could not be reached for comment yesterday. Mark Simon of Next Animation earlier told a local Chinese newspaper that the clip was made by its office in the US.

It is not the first time Next Media's animated news has caused controversy. In 2009, its sensational animation of golfer Tiger Woods' car crash made headlines and stirred debate.

Founded in November 2009, Next Media Animation's YouTube channel offers more than 1,000 videos. It sells some of the animations to firms in the West.

Its style is not for everyone. Taiwan's National Communications Commission rejected an application from the group for a television licence, citing the salacious nature of the animations.

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