Whatever the reason for the re-publication and defense of the Muhammad cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, newspapers which republish them in the name of "freedom of speech" or "freedom of the press" are seriously misrepresenting what those terms mean.|
The publication and republication of the cartoons are an example of sensational journalistic practices, which are efforts to use the press to provoke people against each other. Freedom of the press is not the freedom to stir up hatred against a people because of their religion or nationality or gender, etc. It is not satire to misrepresent a religious figure as a "terrorist" with a bomb.
These cartoons were commissioned by the editors of what traditionally has been a right-wing Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten. There is obviously some fight going on in Denmark to which the commissioning of these cartoons was connected.
According to the Wikipedia entry on Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper has traditionally 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 nickname Morgenfascisten Jyllandsposten (the Morning-fascist Jyllandsposten)."
According to the Wikipedia entry, during the 1920s and 1930s the Jyllands-Posten supported the rise of fascism and of Hitler and Mussolini. The newspaper is reported to have welcomed fascism in Denmark in the 1930s.
While the right to 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 United States, 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 so they can 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 that explores the issues behind differences in viewpoints. But all this is different from a newspaper commissioning cartoons that are intended to be offensive about the religion of a group 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.
Historically, newspapers in various countries have been used to inflame people against other people, or to provoke 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. Any problem then is only exacerbated.
While debate over various ideas is important, it is also 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 union newspaper among the autoworkers in Flint, Michigan. A worker submitted an article to the newspaper praising the Ku Klux Klan. The editor-in-chief, George Carroll, was a Catholic trade unionist. He published the article, but also published his own refutation of the article. He didn't solicit the article in support of the Ku Klux Klan. Neither did he solicit inflammatory material either pro or contra the Ku Klux Klan. Instead he sought to encourage an environment in the newspaper where constructive debate and discussion would occur, without censorship and without rancor.
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 sensationalist and intended to enflame people against each other is a form of "yellow journalism," not an appropriate practice for those who support "freedom of the press" and "freedom of speech."
2006/02/06 오전 6:08
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