British press refuses to print Muhammad cartoons

Dominic Ponsford

British newspapers have refused to publish the controversial
Muhammad cartoons that this week prompted a violent backlash from
Muslims across the world.
Broadcasters took a different view and last night the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 all showed fleeting images of the cartoons.

row over cartoons of the Islam founder began last week after a senior
Saudi Arabian cleric denounced Danish paper Jyllands-Posten for
publishing the pictures in September. This has led to reports of anti
Danish protests and goods boycotts in Gulf states.

Newspapers in France, Germany, Spain and Italy have all published the photos as a show of defiance.

The editor of French newspaper
France Soir was sacked after he decided to publish the cartoons – one
of which depicts a grinning, knife-wielding Muhammad flanked by two
veiled women.

a leader column today, The Independent said of the French editors’
actions: “He was throwing petrol on the flames of a fire that shows every
sign of turning into an international conflagration”.

also said: “The right to free expression is one that this newspaper
defends uncompromisingly. But it would be false to present this solely
as a debate about freedom of speech.

“The media have
responsibilities as well as rights. There is a deceptive borderline
between controversial and irresponsible journalism. Especially in these
troubled times, we all must take care that it is not crossed.”

In 2003 the Independent prompted its own  international row after
printing a Dave Brown cartoon that depicted then Israeli leader
Arial Sharon eating a baby. There were allegations that it was linked
to historic “blood libels” which suggested Jews drank the blood of
Christian babies.
A PCC complaint lodged by Sharon was rejected.

A Times leader
explained why it hasn’t printed the pictures. It said: “This newspaper has had anguish of its own over whether to
reproduce the pictures at the centre of this saga. At one level, their
appearance might be seen as an appropriate response to the fanatics who
have demanded their prohibition and could help the reader to understand
both their character and the impact they might have on believers.

“But to duplicate these cartoons several months after they were originally printed also has an element of exhibitionism to it.”

The Times has provided weblinks to sites where the cartoons can be seen.

its decision not to publish the pictures, The Sun said: “First, the
cartoons are intended to insult Muslims and The Sun can see no
justification for causing deliberate offence to our much-valued Muslim
readers. Second, the row over the cartoons is largely a manufactured

“They were printed first in a Danish dispute over free
speech. The Sun believes passionately in free speech, but that does not
mean we need to jump on someone else’s bandwagon to prove that we will
not be intimidated.”

Muslim Sun columnist Anila Baig said: “The
Muslim religion forbids hand-drawn pictures of any person or animal. It
might sound old-fashioned and alien but this was laid down by our
Prophet to stop idol worship…

“…imagine someone making fun of
your parents or someone you hold very dear and then multiply it a
million times. This is how Muslims feel, as if they have been
personally attacked.

“Of course we live in a free society, but what about responsiblity and respect.”

The International Federation of Journalists said
the sacking of Jacques Lefranc “sends a dangerous signal about
unacceptable pressure on independent journalism.”

secretary Aidan White said: “These are dangerous times for community
relations and media have to tread carefully, but they must not
compromise fundamental principles as they do so.”

NOTE: Clicking this link will show you one of the cartoons at the heart of the controversy. Some readers may find this offensive.

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