Major U.S. Media Outlets Self-censor Controversial Charlie Hebdo Cartoons After Paris Attack

Gunmen killed 12 people at offices of French satirical magazine known for mocking political and religious leaders.

Noel Randewich
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An archive photo of an issue of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, with a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover.
An archive photo of an issue of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, with a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover.Credit: AFP
Noel Randewich

REUTERS - Leading U.S. news outlets mostly declined to show controversial cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed on Wednesday after suspected Islamist gunmen in Paris killed 12 people at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Online news sources the Daily Beast and Slate published the cartoons, but major U.S. publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the Associated Press, did not. Some said their guidelines call for avoiding publishing images or other material intended at offending religious sensibilities.

"After careful consideration, Times editors decided that describing the cartoons in question would give readers sufficient information to understand today's story," New York Times Company spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said by email.

Bill Marimow, editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, told Reuters: "We will not under any circumstances run the cartoons. The idea of gratuitously insulting tens of millions of Muslim people rather than describing something in words is not a close call."

Representatives at Reuters, Slate and the Daily Beast did not immediately return calls seeking comment. The Associated Press has a long-standing policy of refraining from using provocative images, spokesman Paul Colford told Reuters.

Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) is well known for courting controversy with satirical attacks on political and religious leaders of all faiths and has published numerous cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed.

The hooded attackers stormed the Paris offices. During the attack, one of the assailants was captured on video outside the building shouting "We have killed Charlie Hebdo. We have avenged the Prophet Mohammed."

Many Muslims believe it is blasphemous to create pictures of the Prophet Mohammed and Jihadists online repeatedly warned that the magazine would pay for its ridicule.

The Wall Street Journal's coverage included a handful of provocative cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, some of them poking fun at major religions including Islam, but none of them depicted Mohammed.

"Our global news staff is dedicated to reporting and publishing the news and explaining its context and we will continue to do so, despite today's horrific events, and in doing so we rededicate ourselves every day to the central values of press freedom," Gerard Baker, editor in chief of the Journal, said in an emailed statement.

The Associated Press said it cropped a 2012 photo of Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, killed in the attack, to exclude a cartoon of Mohammed on a magazine he held in his hands.

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