Balancing Freedom and Responsibility ; Using Our Rights Responsibly May Mean Not Showing Offensive Cartoons

Article excerpt

As a certified defender of the First Amendment, I've been asked by many people why the American media invoked the people's right to know in breaching national security but is acting with much more circumspection when it comes to combustible cartoons.

The Danish cartoons, one of them depicting the prophet Muhammad with a bomb as his turban, have triggered enraged demonstrations wherever there are sizable Muslim populations, climaxed by the burning of the Danish missions in Beirut and Damascus.

In this country, coverage has centered on the violent protests, but the offending cartoons are hard, almost impossible to find. There was no cartoon in the many newspapers I saw. Since then, the Philadelphia Inquirer has printed one of the cartoons. ABC was the only television network I saw that carried a brief shot of one cartoon. NBC said without explanation that it was not showing any of the cartoons. National Public Radio stated that it had decided not to post the cartoons on its website because they were highly offensive to millions of Muslims.

The State Department straddled the issue saying that the cartoons were "unacceptable," but defending the right of Danish and French newspapers to publish them. …


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