European Papers Defy Paris Attacks to Re-Publish Muhammad Cartoons

Some North America News Agencies Decide Against

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European news organizations are challenging attempts to intimidate the press by publishing controversial cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad across front pages today, following the deadly attack at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

From Britain's Guardian newspaper and Berlin's Tagesspiegel, to best-selling Czech daily Blesk and Spain's El Pais, Europe's news groups honored their murdered colleagues by republishing the cartoons central to yesterday's assault, which left 12 dead, including 8 journalists.

In North America, some agencies decided against publishing the cartoons, including The Associated Press, CBC News and CNN.

"We publish the satire of Charlie Hebdo out of respect for the murder victims who were defending the freedom of opinion," Berliner Zeitung said. "We do it for freedom of the press and of expression, for freedom of the arts and freedom of religion."

The Financial Times published a number of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons on its website, including one of Muhammad holding up his hand warning: "100 Lashes If You Don't Die of Laughter." The Times of London used the images in today's newspaper.

Other caricatures published today show Muhammad crying with the headline "Muhammad Overwhelmed by Fundamentalism," and a picture of an orthodox Jewish man pushing a Muslim man in a wheelchair that reads "Intouchables 2," a reference to a popular French film that teams up a rich quadriplegic with a black care-giver.

El Mundo in Madrid ran a black strip at the top of its front page that read "Je Suis Charlie." Many news groups ran editorials about the attack. FT columnist Tony Barber, brother of the newspaper's editor, was criticized for accusing Charlie Hebdo of "Muslim-baiting" by publishing such cartoons.

Walking tightrope
"There's a real tightrope to be walked here by the editors because you run the risk of pouring petrol on an already-blazing fire," said David Banks, a former editor at the U.K.'s Daily Mirror and the New York Post. "I don't think the U.S. is being cowardly, but the danger is that you take too great a step backward and you allow terrorists to win."

Paul Colford, a spokesman for the AP newswire, said: "It's been our policy for years that we refrain from moving deliberately provocative images" Since much of AP's content is automatically distributed to newspapers and websites, "we will err on the side of caution for some instances."

For CBC News, it's was a continuation of existing policies put in place to respect "the mass of Muslim believers," said Chuck Thompson, a spokesman for Canada's national public broadcaster. While CBC is showing Charlie Hebdo cartoons, including those depicting Islam, images featuring Muhammad are prohibited.

"This is not a ban, and it isn't censorship," Mr. Thompson said. "Similarly, we wouldn't publish cartoons likely to dismay or outrage mainstream followers of other religions."

Danish cartoons
Tensions over the depiction of Muhammad in cartoons exploded back in 2005, when Danish daily Jyllands-Posten was assailed by some Muslims for publishing such images. Charlie Hebdo reprinted those same cartoons, which had prompted violent protests that left 50 people dead globally.

The Paris-based magazine is known for its scathing satire of politicians, celebrities and religious figures. Its cover this week is on "Submission," a novel by Michel Houellebecq released Wednesday that has sparked controversy with its depiction of a fictional France led by an Islamic party and a Muslim president.

The youngest suspect in yesterday's attack, 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad, surrendered today, and French police named two assailants still at large. They are brothers Said Kouachi, 34 and Charif Kouachi, 32.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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