Editorial: "Why This Paper Decided Not to Publish Cartoons of Muhammed"

February 5, 2006

Source: Sunday Herald


On February 5, 2006 the Sunday Herald reported, "This newspaper’s commitment to freedom of speech is unshakeable and unequivocal. We stand alongside George Orwell in believing that if liberty means anything, it means the right to tell people what they do not necessarily want to hear. Given this premise, and indeed the responsibility that comes with it, newspapers do have the right to publish the controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammed which have so incensed the Muslim world. However, the Sunday Herald has, after a great deal of thought, decided not to publish the cartoons ... and we believe our readers deserve to know how we reached this decision... Indeed, without the threats, we would have decided not to use some of the cartoons in question on the grounds that Muslim readers would have been offended. When a particular group or organisation, however, seeks to prevent publication of material it considers offensive, it is a different matter. Any newspaper’s instinct would be to publish in the face of such pressure... Newspapers which print material likely to offend must be prepared to accept the consequences . But in a civilised society such consequences should be restricted to peaceful and legal measures and should not extend to violent intimidation... The British Council of Muslims should respond by accepting it too holds a moral responsibility. It should condemn the extreme response by some in the Muslim community as deplorable; it should accept that freedom of speech is part of the cultural fabric of Britain and should work hard to convince its community that such liberty should work for all citizens."