Opinion: Cowards (Media outlets not publishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons)

POSTED: 01/12/15 11:16 PM

What do you do if terrorists use Kalashnikovs to silence journalists and cartoonists as has happened in Paris with the freedom fighters of Charlie Hebdo? We do not pretend that Today is making a dent in the landscape of global media, but that does not mean we do not have our principles – and we will always live up to them. This is why we published a picture on our front page on Thursday showing the assassinated Editor-in-Chief of Charlie Hebdo, Stéphane Charbonnier, holding up a copy of his magazine that shows the famous Mohammed-cartoon instead of a meaningless shot of a car and some police officers in Paris.

Freedom of expression is the greater good here and all those media that now suddenly shy away from publishing anything that might arouse the anger of some crazy idiot who uses the Islam as an excuse to bring out the Kalashnikovs are putting their economic interests above the right to freedom of expression. They are cowards who give in to brainless terrorists. How stupid can you be?

Mainstream American media lead the way in stupidity. They consciously do not publish Charlie Hebdo-cartoons that could offend people. Critics – and Today is among them – find this incomprehensible. Will these media now also stop publishing cartoons that could be offensive to supporters of George Bush, Barack Obama or Ban-ki-Moon? The Dalai Lama? The Pope? Santaclaus?

Not publishing Charlie Hebdo-cartoons in the aftermath of the Paris-massacre is an insult to those who perished in the attack.

French newspapers showed they had balls, setting them apart from their cowardly counterparts (to use a word that is offensive to entrepreneurs in St. Maarten) in the US of A.

“This is what they died for!” read the headline on the front page of the French daily La Tribune. And to show what “this” is, the paper published nine covers of the satirical magazine on its front page. That’s what we call a statement.

Other European newspapers published their own cartoons like a thick middle finger, or they put large Charlie Hebdo-cartoons on their front and back pages.

American media showed where their real interests lie. Jan Kruidhof writes in Trouw that news sites like The Daily Beast, Slate and the Huffington Post used to publish Mohammed-cartoons, but the New York Times and large press agencies like Reuters and Associated Press stay away from them.

Why? This is the lame explanation from the New York Times: readers do not have to see these cartoons to be able to understand the news. Describing these particular cartoons offers sufficient information for readers to understand the news, a spokesman said.

Would not the same be true for, say, pictures of the wreckage of flight MH17 in the Ukraine? Why publish pictures of Putin if describing the man would suffice for readers to understand what he is all about?

Other American media found an even more cowardly way to handle the Charlie Hebdo-massacre. The New York Daily News for instance, published a file photo of Charbonnier holding up a copy of his magazine with a Mohammed-cartoon, but it made part of the cartoon – Mohammed, not the Jew next to him – invisible. Apparently it is okay to offend Jews. In England, the Telegraph did something similar.

Not all American media were so meek. The Washington Post places a cartoon on its opinion page (not on the front page). Other than the New York Times, the Post reasoned that the cartoon was necessary for readers to understand the story. And there was a second reason: solidarity with the victims. The Wall Street Journal also published a cartoon.

Not surprisingly, the reluctance of mainstream media to publish Charlie Hebdo-cartoons has met with a lot of criticism. “This is the essence of the news. This is the heart of freedom of expression. This is journalism!” Jeff Jarvis, am American journalism professor, tweeted. “These journalists died for these images.”

The Editor-in-Chief of Trouw, Cees van der Laan, also has his doubts about the choices American media made. “I question this, A newspaper gates, sometimes it hurts. She provides context, reflects on what is pleasant and what is painful. They are both part of the game.”

All the same, Trouw did not publish a Charlie Hebdo-cartoon on its front page. Van der Laan claims that the editorial staff considered it but that the choice fell in the end on showing the emotion of the moment.

The front page of its section Verdieping (Deepening) showed a cartoon though and the newspaper’s opinion pages also contained several of them.

Trouw did not play it down on the front page for fear of an attack, Van der Laan says. “We do not let ourselves be silenced. Trouw has published acrimonious cartoons in the past. We do that today and we will keep doing that in the future. Trouw’s origins go back to the resistance during the Second World War. It values freedom of expression. In August, we commemorated that 70 years ago 23 fellow-workers of Trouw were executed. On Wednesday again journalists died who fought for freedom of expression. There is a link between those two events.”

Jarvis asked via Twitter if anybody had seen Hebdo-cartoons on American TV-stations. Several stations stayed away from the cartoons. CNN did not know what to do and Fox News, after first showing a cartoon, later said it would not do this anymore. The NBC News Group (MSNBC and CNBC) has decided not to show cartoons or even headlines “that could be interpreted as insensitive or offensive.” Jarvis has nothing good to say about that decision, and rightly so. “From the point of view of journalism, this is awful.”

Trouw-boss Van der Laan remains optimistic about the possible fallout of the terrorist attack. He thinks that it is more likely that it has strengthened the freedom of the press in Europe than that the press will begin to censor itself.

And still, he admits, one cannot exclude the possibility that these attacks will linger in the back of the minds of journalists and cartoonists. “I hope that media do not begin to impose restrictions on themselves like media in the United States have done. In that scenario, the terrorists have won. The free word must always be heard.”

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