Prophet Muhammad cartoon in Quebec papers after Charlie Hebdo shooting
English-language Montreal Gazette opts against publishing image, Radio-Canada runs it sparingly
Quebec's major French-language newspapers have jointly published a Charlie Hebdo editorial cartoon featuring the Prophet Muhammad, in a show of solidarity with the satirical Paris newspaper where 12 people were killed on Wednesday.
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The cartoon shows the half-hidden, grimacing face of the Prophet Muhammad, saying, "It's tough to be loved by idiots."
The French-language newspapers that published the cartoon are:
- Le Devoir.
- Le Journal de Montréal.
- Le Journal de Québec.
- 24 Heures.
- La Presse.
- Le Soleil.
- Le Quotidien.
- Le Droit.
- La Tribune.
- La Voix de l’Est.
- Le Nouveliste and Métro.
In a joint statement published alongside the cartoon, the newspapers explained they wanted to honour the victims of the Paris shootings, some workers at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and show their support for the “fundamental principle of freedom of expression.”
“Attacking someone simply for their ideas and opinions is an unacceptable impediment to democracy,” the statement said.
Philosophy of respect
The Montreal Gazette, the English-language daily, decided not to run the same image, which was originally published in 2006.
Lucinda Chodan, editor in chief of the Gazette, said her newspaper’s parent company, Postmedia, has a long-standing policy against publishing depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
Chodan added, however, that she supports her “colleagues in the francophone press who published the cartoon.”
“Of course, we also support Charlie Hebdo,” she said.
The Gazette showed that support with a rare banner headline in French, "Nous sommes tous Charlie," which translates into, "We are all Charlie."
Denise Bombardier, a columnist for Journal de Montréal, said she’s proud of the province’s French-language newspapers.
“It says something about political correctness and about courage,” she told Daybreak.
“I’m sad that the Gazette refused to do this, because I think that this is the war of the 21st century, and if we don’t react the way we did in our newspapers this morning, and in many newspapers around the world and in Europe, then this war is lost.”
Another columnist, Patrick Lagacé, who writes for La Presse, said concern for political correctness is much stronger in English-speaking countries, such as Canada and the United States, compared to French-language media in Quebec or France.
"I think the anglo world, English Canadians, are prisoners to political correctness when they make some judgment calls like that in the media," he said.
'It isn't censorship,' says CBC's David Studer
CBC News has decided not to publish cartoons from Charlie Hebdo that feature the Prophet Muhammad.
“This is not a ban, and it isn't censorship,” David Studer, CBC's director of Journalistic Standards and Practices, said in an email on Wednesday, reminding news staff of CBC's long-established policy.
“We are being consistent with our historic journalistic practices around this story, not because of fear, but out of respect for the beliefs and sensibilities of the mass of Muslim believers about images of the Prophet. Similarly, we wouldn't publish cartoons likely to dismay or outrage mainstream followers of other religions.”
CBC's French service, Radio-Canada, took a different approach and chose to run the cartoon on TV and its website.
Michel Cormier, Radio-Canada's executive director of news and current affairs, said the image was used sparingly, and with the intention of providing context to the events unfolding in Paris.
"We're trying to explain to people what's happening," he said.