Saturday, February 04, 2006

The UK's spineless media

A roundup of the Cartoon War editorials in the 'serious' UK press

The Times

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 that 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. To present them in front of the public for debate is not a value-neutral exercise. The offence destined to be caused to moderate Muslims should not be discounted..On balance, we have chosen not to publish the cartoons but to provide weblinks to those who wish to see them.

Translation - our get-out clause is that the cartoons were published a long time ago and are old news.

The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph has chosen not to publish the cartoons. We prefer not to cause gratuitous offence to some of our readers, a policy we also apply, for example, to pictures of graphic nudity or violence. We are equally in no doubt that a small minority of Muslims would be offended by such a publication to an extent where they would threaten, and perhaps even use, violence. This is a problem that the whole of the Western world needs to confront frankly, and not sidestep.

Translation - we don't want to offend Muslims because we fear reprisals. We're shit scared of them and don't mind admitting it.

The Independent

There is an important distinction to be made between having a right and choosing to exercise it. The editor of France Soir had the right to reprint the offending cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that first caused a stir in the Danish press. But in doing so he was throwing petrol on the flames of a fire that shows every sign of turning into an international conflagration.

Translation - we don't report world events that might be inflammatory

The Guardian

The right to freedom of speech which allows newspapers to publish such provocative cartoons has been hard won, is inextricably essential to liberty, must be robustly defended and has sometimes to be controversially asserted. If free speech is to be meaningful, moreover, the right to it cannot shirk from embracing views that a majority - or a minority - finds distasteful, even on occasions bitterly so. All those considerations point towards a case for wider publication of cartoons which, even though offensive and provocative, say something about uncomfortable issues that are central to the modern world and have triggered an anguished debate in Europe and elsewhere

a wonderful paragraph...but here come the 'buts'

But newspapers are not obliged to republish offensive material merely because it is controversial..It is one thing to assert the right to publish an image of the prophet. As long as that is not illegal - and not even the government's amended religious hatred bill makes it so - then that right undoubtedly exists. But it is another thing to put that right to the test, especially when to do so inevitably causes offence to many Muslims

Translation - We are very confused. One the one hand we do not want to 'shirk from embracing views that a minority find distasteful' but more importantly we don't want to offend Muslims.