Newspaper pulped after it runs Muhammad cartoon

By Zoe Smith, Hamish Mackay, Jeffrey Blyth and Martin Stabe

Thousands of copies of a student newspaper have been pulped and three of its journalists suspended by their students’

union after publishing a controversial cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

Cardiff University paper Gair Rhydd, which means "Free Word" in Welsh, is believed to be the first newspaper in Britain to have published the controversial image, which has sparked protests around the world.

The cartoon pictured Muhammad’s turban as a bomb with a lit fuse. It accompanied a story, headed "That’s Allah Folks", about the furore surrounding its publication in various European papers last week.

Around 10,000 copies of Gair Rhydd were printed on Friday night. Copies were distributed in the students’ union building on Saturday until the decision to recall the paper was made that evening.

The paper’s editor, Tom Wellingham, was suspended by the students’ union pending an investigation. The news editor and the reporter who wrote the story were also suspended.

"The editorial team enjoy the normal freedoms and independence associated with the press in the UK, and are expected to exercise those freedoms with responsibility, due care and judgement,"

a students’ union spokeswoman said.

Wellingham told Press Gazette he was unable to comment.

One Gair Rhydd insider said the decision to publish the cartoon had been poorly considered and was not a deliberate "statement of a belief in the right to free speech".

■ The Sunday Herald in Glasgow has admitted that possible threats of violence to its staff influenced its decision not to publish the cartoons of Muhammad.

In a leading article the paper said: "There is also the potential threat of violence to the Sunday Herald itself and to its staff — a threat that has to be taken seriously."

■ In France, satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published the cartoons on Wednesday. The left-wing weekly magazine, named after Charlie Brown from the Peanuts cartoon strip, reprinted all 12 controversial cartoons as well as a new front-page caricature of its own.

■ The decision by Associated Press not to distribute pictures of the controversial cartoons, at least not to American papers, caused controversy in the US.

One major American newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, decided to publish the cartoon of Muhammad wearing the bomb-like turban. It sparked protests from local Muslims, who picketed the Inquirer’s offices. The editor of the Inquirer, Amanda Bennett, assured the protesters that the paper meant no disrespect.

Four American journalists working for weekly freebie the New York Press, including the editor, announced they were quitting because their paper refused to reprint the cartoons.

A paper in Austin, Texas, that ran one of the cartoons, claimed it had received only one letter of protest.

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