(I re-wrote the headline for this piece overnight as I thought the new version was more accurate and appropriate)
It was heartening to see the Irish Times leading the condemnation from Irish journalism of the brutal Jihadist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last week and defending the right to free expression by participating in an international protest organised by Index on Censorship.
The “right to offend”, the paper opined, “must be defended with courage and vigour”.
However it would have been even more uplifting had the Times injected a note of regret in its commentary that it had failed to take its own advice to defend the “right to offend” with “courage and vigour” when last April its editors censored and withdrew from the internet a cartoon drawn by in-house cartoonist, Martyn Turner because it had offended senior members of the Irish Catholic hierarchy.
It seems that sauce for the Catholic goose is not sauce for the Islamic gander.
Thebrokenelbow.com is today reproducing Martyn Turner’s censored cartoon below and beneath that reprints yesterday’s commentary by the Irish Times followed by a news story in TheJournal.ie from last April explaining the background to the censoring of Martyn Turner.
Readers of this blog can then make their own judgement on the affair. This blog stands squarely behind the principle that all censorship is wrong and must be opposed no matter who urges or imposes it.
And needless to say: “Nous sommes tout Charlie!”
The Irish Times view: Charlie Hebdo attack is a brutal assault on our freedom of expression
News organisations around the world show solidarity with Charlie Hebdo magazine
Index, an international organisation that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression, asked that publications around the world express their solidarity with their colleagues in Charlie Hebdo at 2pm.
We took part by leading irishtimes.com with our editorial comment on the attack and Martyn Turner’s cartoon condemning the massacre.
The massacre at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris was not only a barbarous act of terrorism but an assault on freedom of expression, one of the fundamental human rights. The murderers’ identities remain unknown but their motives are evident – to stifle through intimidation the expression of views they dislike and to provoke a disproportionate, polarising security response. They must not be allowed to succeed on either count.
A small-circulation magazine that often attracted more public condemnation than praise, Charlie Hebdo is part of a tradition of robust French satire that stretches back to before the revolution, when scandal sheets mocked the sex lives of the royal family.
Best known for its cartoons, Charlie Hebdo has caused offence to people of various political and religious beliefs but became notorious in recent years for lampooning Islam in ways that outraged many Muslims and drew accusations of racism. The magazine’s offices were firebombed in 2011 after it published an entire edition mocking Islam and it faced more threats the following year when it carried a series of cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad; some of them depicting him naked.
Some of the criticism of Charlie Hebdo’s provocative satire was legitimate and its cartoons caused real offence to many people, some of them members of minorities already under pressure in France. It is one thing to argue about whether particular expressions of satire are appropriate or tasteful but quite another to claim a right not to be offended.
The massacre at the magazine’s offices was something of a quite different order and an outrage that cannot be tolerated in a democratic society – the attempt to silence a discordant voice through violence.
Regardless of the offence their work may have caused, the journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo had the right to publish it and they share no responsibility for the attack that killed them. Their murders must not be allowed to intimidate satirists elsewhere from tackling sensitive issues and their right to offend must be defended with courage and vigour.
The 12 dead and 10 injured were the primary victims of the attack but they were not the only ones. This was also an assault on Islam and on its adherents, the overwhelming majority of whom – in France and elsewhere – reject the bloodsoaked extremism of the gunmen. French Muslims are already the targets of hatred from Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front, which is soaring in the polls.
This attack will make the situation of France’s Muslim community even more uncomfortable. Young men of Arab origin could bear the brunt of any heavy-handed security crackdown. The French authorities should exercise proper restraint as they carry out the important duty of bringing the perpetrators of this barbarous act of terror to justice.
Irish Times to explain why controversial cartoon was removed from website
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin had said last week that priests were “hurt” by the cartoon’s publication.
THE IRISH TIMES is to publish an explanation in tomorrow’s edition of the newspaper as to why a Martyn Turner cartoon was removed from its website.
The cartoon, which was published on Wednesday, was accessible at this link, but is no longer available.
It is also gone from the archive of Martyn Turner cartoons on the Irish Times website.
The cartoon showed three priests standing next to each other; the priest in the centre was holding a paper with ‘Children’s First Bill’ and ‘mandatory reporting’ written on it.
The Children’s First Bill was launched earlier this week, and will make it mandatory for certain professions and post-holders to report incidents of harm and the risk of harm to the Child and Family Agency.
The cartoon “hurt” many priests and lay people, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said on Thursday at the Pro Cathedral.
I know that many priests and people feel hurt by a cartoon in yesterday’s Irish Times. I am a strong believer in freedom of speech and of the vital role of satire in social criticism, but I object to anything that would unjustly tarnish all good priests with the unpardonable actions of some. We have great priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin.
When contacted by TheJournal.ie today, a staff member at the Irish Times said that an explanation for the removal of the cartoon will be published in tomorrow’s paper.