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Most British Media Outlets Won't Discuss Why They Didn't Publish The New Cover Of Charlie Hebdo

The media is clearly highly divided on what constitutes the correct course of action.

Originally posted on
Updated on

Yesterday the cover of the new issue of Charlie Hebdo was revealed.

Charlie Hebdo

It features an image of the Prophet Muhammad holding a sign saying "I am Charlie". Above him is the caption "All is forgiven".

Zineb El Rhazoui, one of the newspaper's surviving columnists, told The Guardian:

We feel that we have to forgive what happened. I think those who have been killed, if they would have been able to have a coffee today with the terrorists and just talk to ask them why have they done this. … We feel at the Charlie Hebdo team that we need to forgive.

The British media has been deeply conflicted in how it has decided to cover the publication of the cover.

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A BBC spokesperson told BuzzFeed News:

Following the attacks in Paris last week, BBC News has reported the story thoroughly and responsibly. This has included running images of cartoons carried in Charlie Hebdo. We have broadcast television packages reporting the attacks and explaining the history of Charlie Hebdo, including images of the Prophet Muhammad, on the News at One, News at Ten and Panorama. Last night, Newsnight broadcast a picture of the planned Charlie Hebdo front page due to be published tomorrow. The BBC is a news organisation committed both to free speech and respecting our audiences in the UK and around the world. We have made the editorial judgment that the images are central to reporting the story and will continue to report the story in a careful and considered manner.

The BBC was the only British broadcaster to publish the cover. Of the others, ITV would not give BuzzFeed News a comment on the decision. Channel 5 could not be reached. BuzzFeed News was awaiting a statement from Channel 4 at the time of publication and will update in due course.

Channel 5 sent BuzzFeed News a statement: "Channel 5 have taken the editorial decision at this stage not to show any images of the Prophet Mohammed."

Sky News told BuzzFeed News:

Sky News has given extensive coverage to this story and to the highly controversial issues surrounding it, which have been debated on TV and across our other platforms on numerous occasions over the last few days.

As with any controversial story, the issue of publication of the cartoons has been subject to rigorous editorial scrutiny and discussions – which will continue. Currently, Sky News will not be broadcasting these images on any of its platforms.

The Independent was one of two British newspapers to publish the cartoon.

The Independent newspaper (UK) publishes the new Charlie Hebdo #Mohammed cover today on page 8. #JeSuisCharlie

Matthew Hunt@matthew_huntFollow

The Independent newspaper (UK) publishes the new Charlie Hebdo #Mohammed cover today on page 8. #JeSuisCharlie

6:54 AM - 13 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

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The newspaper declined to comment on the decision besides saying that it was a "very sensitive" story. The other newspaper to do so, The Guardian, included a line in the story saying: "The Guardian is running this cover as its news value warrants publication."

By contrast, The Sun did not publish the cartoon, but did direct BuzzFeed News to a debate on Sky News earlier this week featuring Stig Abell, the paper's managing editor.

In the debate he said:

We exercised freedom of expression by making editorial judgments about what to put in the paper yesterday ... and now we're being told that we're wrong for exercising whatever judgment we made. ... Freedom of expression is freedom of choice. It doesn't mean that we will never reproduce images, we made a decision yesterday of how to cover this case and I think the thing that struck us most forcibly was that this was a moment in time in which 12 people were butchered.

The magazine's story included this editor's comment:

The Guardian and Independent have done the right thing in publishing the Charlie Hebdo front page and done so in a responsible manner. Press Gazette has only linked to the front page in this story (and published it partially) mainly because the security considerations make this a far from straight-forward decision. As a small part of a much larger publishing group it is not for us to unilaterally take a decision which creates a risk (however tiny) for thousands of colleagues.

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A number of online sites took the decision to publish, among them the Huffington Post, Business Insider, and the Guido Fawkes blog, which gave BuzzFeed News a statement: "They can take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom."

BuzzFeed News also took the decision to publish the images. Luke Lewis, editor of BuzzFeed UK, told Radio 5:

We had a spirited debate about whether or not to run the images...we've got a number of Muslim members of staff. And in the end we decided unanimously that there was a clear news value to publishing the images. These were images that had sparked a world-shaking act of violence and to write a news story about that and to not include the images would be perverse.

However, most of the British media has had little to say on the subject of publishing this cartoon at all.

BuzzFeed News contacted The Telegraph, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, The Mirror, and the Financial Times.

It also contacted the New Statesman, Private Eye, and the Spectator, whose most recent issues are not yet out.

At the time of writing all had either declined to comment, could not be contacted, or failed to respond.

Last week, following the shootings, there were a number of different decisions taken by outlets around the world on whether Charlie Hebdo's covers should be published.

Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, tweeted about the decision not to.

Get real, folks. A Jewish newspaper like mine that published such cartoons would be at the front of the queue for Islamists to murder.

Stephen Pollard@stephenpollardFollow

Get real, folks. A Jewish newspaper like mine that published such cartoons would be at the front of the queue for Islamists to murder.

1:26 PM - 07 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

Easy to attack papers for not showing cartoons. But here's my editor's dilemma. Every principle I hold tells me to print them. But 1/2

Stephen Pollard@stephenpollardFollow

Easy to attack papers for not showing cartoons. But here's my editor's dilemma. Every principle I hold tells me to print them. But 1/2

1:15 PM - 07 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

what right do I have to risk the lives of my staff to make a point? 2/2

Stephen Pollard@stephenpollardFollow

what right do I have to risk the lives of my staff to make a point? 2/2

1:15 PM - 07 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

And this time around, decisions around the world have varied once more.

Leading British newsagent WH Smith has announced it will not be stocking the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo. Around 1,000 copies of the magazine will appear in the UK.

Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alan White at alan.white@buzzfeed.com.

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