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<nettime> publication of "Jyllands-Posten" cartoons is not "freedom of t
Ronda Hauben on Thu, 9 Feb 2006 10:53:48 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> publication of "Jyllands-Posten" cartoons is not "freedom of thepress"

Whatever the reason for the republication and defense of the cartoons,
in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, newspapers which republish them in the
name of "freedom of speech" or "freedom of the press" are seriously
misrepresenting what "freedom of speech" or "freedom of the press" mean.

The publication and republication of the cartoons are an example of
sensational journalistic practices, an effort to use the press to provoke
people, which is traditionally something that the press has been used

Freedom of the press is not the freedom to stir up hatred against a
people because of their religion or nationality or sex, etc.

It is not satire to misrepresent religious symbols of a people as
a "terrorist" with a bomb.

These cartoons were commissioned and printed by what traditionally
had been a right wing Danish daily newspaper "Jyllands-Posten".
There is obviously some fight going on in Denmark that the commissioning
of these cartoons was connected to.

According to a wikipedia entry on this, the newspaper has played a right
wing role in Danish politics. The entry states:

"The paper is historically known for taking a clear right-wing line. Thus,
the popular Danish nick-name Morgenfascisten Jyllandsposten (the
Morning-fascist Jyllandsposten)." (1)

During the 1920s and 1930s the newspaper supported the rise of fascism,
of Hitler and Mussolini, according to the Wikipedia entry. Also the
newspaper welcomed the fascism into Denmark in the 1930s.

While freedom of speech and the press is to be protected, it is important
to understand the difference between such important rights and the
effort to provoke people against each other.

In the US the right to freedom of speech and the press is contained in the
Bill of Rights. This is because there is a need to protect journalists to
be able to critique corrupt government practices.

If newspapers are supporting the provocation of the people of one
religion against the people of another religion, this may very well
have its roots in government activity. It would be an appropriate role
for a newspaper to try to unmask which government officials are supporting
such activities.

It would be a proper journalistic role to support a debate about views,
that explores the issues behind the differences in the views. But all
this is different from a newspaper commissioning cartoons that are
intended to be offensive about the religion of a set of people.

If other newspapers want to help to sort out the issues in this problem,
they can do so. But to reprint the offending graphics in the name of
protecting the so called right to "freedom of the press" or "freedom of
speech" does not help to identify the issues involved. Instead it only
seeks to provoke a further inflaming of an already harmful situation.

Newspapers in various countries have been used to try to inflame people
against other people, or to invite people to attack others.

To encourage ridicule of the religious beliefs of Muslim people is to
act in a way so as to encourage attacks against them.

The problem then is only deepened.

While debate over various ideas is important, it is important to determine
how to encourage such debate rather than to try to inflame those on
opposing sides.

In the 1940's there was a rank and file newspaper among the auto workers
in Flint, Michigan. Someone submitted an article to the newspaper praising
the Klu Klux Klan. The editor-in-chief, George Carroll, was a catholic
trade unionist. He published the article but also published his refutation
of the article. He didn't solicit the article. He didn't solicit
inflamatory material either pro or contra the Klu Klux Klan. Instead he
tried to encourage an environment in the newspaper where constructive
debate and discussion would occur.

This is the challenge for journalism.

It is ever more important that there be serious discussion and
clarification of what freedom of speech and the press mean in a time
when the terms are being so abused.

Distinguishing the practices of "yellow journalism" from the practices
of responsible journalism is a serious challenge for society.
Publishing news that is sensationalism and intended to enflame people
against each other is a form of "yellow journalism" not an appropriate
practice of those who support "freedom of the press" and "freedom of


(1) See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyllands-Posten

(2) See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_journalism



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