Been following the Charlie Hebdo reactions?
In Canada and the US, most of the english speaking newspapers decided not to reprint the Carlie Hebdo cartoons that led to the terrorist attacks in Paris (most of the french newspapers did). Much has been said this week about whether the New York Times, the Globe and Mail and other national newspapers are self-censoring by not publishing those cartoons.
The debate seems to be this: newspaper editors are choosing not to publish these cartoons out of a concern of offending muslims; dissenting columnists are claiming this is a slippery slope to self-censorship and limiting freedom of speech.
To these columnists, lets call bullshit. Free speech protects our right to have our voice (even if it offends) but free speech does not create a positive obligation to offend. The New York Times’ decision not to republish the cartoons was probably pretty similar to their decision not to publish cartoon’s of that type in the first place. The New York Times – like most english speaking North American newspapers – very rarely chooses to publish material that makes fun of people of a particular religious faith. Charlie Hedbo does.
And for that decision by the Times – and the choices they’ve made over decades not to intentionally mock those of faith – they should be applauded. By the same token, there is nothing wrong with how Charlie Hebdo has chosen to exercise its freedom of expression – over the years they have provoked and potential offended virtually every religious or cultural denomination.
Personally, I would have been disappointed if the NY Times and the Globe and Mail had decided to jump on the bandwagon and published the cartoons. They are both covering the attack comprehensively and fairly and they have been unambiguous in supporting Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish these cartoons. But since when does a right to expression and freedom to offend translate into an obligation to offend