Monday, February 06, 2006

'The Danish Cartoons' in the Media.

In Europe, the whole Danish-cartoon controversy has sparked an interesting debate over the notion of freedom of speech. According to Jyllands-Posten the Danish newspaper which initially published the cartoons their point for publishing the caricatures was actually to stir a debate over the problems of self-censorship by many people when dealing with Islam. Well, one thing is certain - they have succeeded beyond belief.

The newspaper urged cartoonists to send in drawings of the prophet, after an author complained that nobody dared to illustrate his book on Mohammed. The author claimed that illustrators feared that extremist Muslims would find it sacrilegious to break the Islamic ban on depicting Mohammed. Twelve illustrators heeded the newspaper's call, and sent in cartoons of the prophet, which were published in the newspaper. (source here).

Freedom of expression/speech is also the reason why many European newspapers say they have published the cartoons which has in turn intensified the debate. The cartoons have been reprinted in the Norwegian newspaper Magazinet, the German newspaper Die Welt as well as in Jordan where the editor of the newspaper [al-Shihan] was fired and later arrested.

In France, the first newspaper to print the cartoons, France Soir, had its director fired by the (Christian) Franco-Egyptian owner. The news came as a shock and caused the editorial staff to back up their initial decision. Other papers have also reproduced the cartoon as a sign of defiance, it seems. French television (both public and private) while presenting the debate has not been shy in their showing the controversial drawings and this despite their 5 million Muslim viewers. It now seems that some of them are being a bit more wary (Canal plus, France 5 have either not shown them or blurred them).

Now on the other hand, and quite interestingly, UK national newspapers decided not to publish the cartoons and the BBC News executives have apologized for any offence they caused by showing. South African newspapers will not be allowed to publish a controversial cartoon depicting prophet Mohammad after a Muslim pressure group was granted a court interdict. All of Australia's biggest newspapers have declined to publish the cartoons (claiming 'social responsibility') with the exception of The Brisbane Courier-Mail which has published one cartoon.

As for the US, newspapers such as the Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal all refrained from publishing the caricatures, with a spokesman explaining their judgment that “the story could be told effectively without publishing images that many would find offensive.” Similarly, the ABC and NBC television networks avoided showing the controversial images to their viewers or they did it partially. (ABC, and later FOX, did.) (here). CBS News, the decision was made not to run the cartoons.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, is one of the few U.S. newspapers to have published the controversial cartoons (see here) but interestingly, the Associated Press declined the Inquirer editor’s request to transmit photographs of the cartoon “because they didn’t meet AP standards for acceptable content,” the agency said in a statement.

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