The PJ Tatler

German D.C. Bureau Chief: U.S. News Outlets' Refusal to Show Charlie Hebdo Images 'Disgusting and Morally Appalling'


Today’s issue of the New York Times features a comprehensive story on the Muhammad cover of the new Charlie Hebdo issue, but doesn’t show a picture of the cover.

TIME magazine declared “Here’s What to Expect in the Next Issue of Charlie Hebdo” — without a picture of magazine cover. CNN headlined “Charlie Hebdo puts Mohammed on its new cover” without a picture.

NPR didn’t run the cover, with a lengthy statement explaining why: “Just because offensive images are part of a story does not mean a news organization must publish or post them with its news reports,” it says in part.

The Wall Street Journal did show the cover, as did the Los Angeles Times. So did USA Today, which last week ran an op-ed justify the terrorist attacks from radical cleric Anjem Choudary followed by a column from the editorial page editor explaining why they decided to be so edgy.

The Washington bureau chief for German newspaper Die Welt, which not only ran this cover but got banned by Egypt for running other Mohammed representations in a 2008 special Islam issue, lashed out at American outlets that refused to run the cover in a blog post.

“Today is the day that American journalism lost me,” wrote Clemens Wergin:

“I used to think that some of its newspapers and magazines represented the gold standard of international journalism. After the Islamist massacre at the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo and the reaction of American media to it I come to believe that maybe we should start talking about a new gold standard of  hypocrisy instead. Of course I am talking about most of the media’s refusal to print any of the cartoons of the satire magazine about the Islamic prophet Muhammad, even the less abrasive ones.

…And what did leading American media companies like NBC, CNN, the New York Times and others do? They again refused to show the cover. A disgrace to the surviving editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo  just as well as its dead members. It is a disgusting and morally appalling refusal to let Charlie Hebdo speak in its own distinctive voice.

It is not that I don’t understand where you, my American colleagues, come from. You are not a fan of the iconoclastic, anti-clerical tradition of Europe where fighting against the church during many centuries meant fighting against power or fighting against the legitimizing force allied to the absolute power of kings and emperors. You didn’t need to, because your many and diverse faiths never were accomplices to the abuse of power in the way the old faiths of Europe were. But still I find it somewhat hard to believe that you get at each other’s throats in most aggressive ways when it is about political ideas or party affiliation, but the realm of religion is largely exempt from the battle of ideas and therefor taboo for the art of ridicule. Most media companies in the US that didn’t show the cartoons said they didn’t want to offend people of faith. A fair argument. If it didn’t violate the most sacred duty of journalism, the duty to inform.

…It seems that in this case with thousands of media companies worldwide publishing the cartoons the risks for any one operation to be singled out by Islamist Fascists would have been pretty small. You didn’t want to take the chance anyhow? Fine. But would you please spare us in the future all this journalist bullshit about speaking truth to power? It is easy speaking truth to power if you criticize and ridicule you own democratic government which won’t kill you or put you in jail for speaking your mind or publishing unfriendly or over-the-top cartoons. But when you are ready to be intimidated by the new Fascist thugs in the world even in those little things and in such a crucial moment you’d better stop all that self-aggrandizing talk about the bravery of the free press.”

Read the whole post.