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Charlie Hebdo's Muhammad cartoons - to print or not to print?
Last week, few news outlets would have dared print caricatures like the ones on the front of the Charlie Hebdo magazine. That is after all, what made the satirical French magazine so unique. On Thursday, the lowly Berlin tabloid B.Z. gained international attention and praise on social media for covering its front page with Charlie Hebdo covers - while Twitter users demanded that major media networks follow suit.
Editorial meetings everywhere faced the same ethical question - publish the photos out of solidarity with the murdered colleagues in Paris, or refuse to risk the offense and possibly the safety of its employees? The world's biggest news agency Associated Press, for one, did not change its "longstanding policy" of "not mov[ing] deliberately provocative images on the wire." The New York Times also said that "after careful consideration," it had decided that "describing the cartoons" would be enough.
The BBC has a policy of not depicting Muhammad in any form - a rule that was roundly criticized this week on the network's panel discussion show "Question Time." There has been no official statement on the matter, but many noticed conspiratorially on Friday that the BBC's editorial guidelines page was suddenly out of action.
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