Much to the chagrin of sensible adults everywhere, a lot has been made in recent days over whether or not news networks should broadcast images of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons which depict Islam’s Prophet, Muhammad.
In the wake of the appalling terror attacks in France, it was discovered that the official BBC editorial guidelines on this opted for Sharia compliance by affirming “The prophet Mohammed must not be represented in any shape or form.” This gained a lot of negative attention – which resulted in the guidelines being replaced with some vague nonsense about obtaining senior authorisation instead. This had the whiff of hoping to maintain the previous policy whilst allowing it to go unstated. .
It was clear this issue was causing a certain level of discomfort to our journalists. The BBC’s own Evan Davis for instance, was seen sheepishly treating us to a brief flash of the image as though he were being forced to share a log of his internet browsing history.
I did wonder though; what would happen were someone to catch a live broadcast unawares with the image? Well, thanks to the commendable efforts of French Journalist Caroline Fourest, we need wonder no more. And it’s extraordinary:
It truly is something to behold. The reaction could barely have been different had the guest started masturbating whilst throwing Nazi salutes.
You could see the camera begin to retreat as soon as the operator had realised what was coming. The live link to the guest was abandoned and the flustered presenter informed us that Sky had taken the decision not to show the cartoon and apologised for any ‘offense’ caused.
There we have it. An apology for any ‘offense’ – as though this is what any of this is really about. We know, as well as they know that this wasn’t done to spare ‘offense’ – it was censored because of fear of reprisals. Well, fair enough you might say – but at least let’s be honest about it.
The Western media is now so afraid to show a cartoon that it will apply self-censorship in order to comply with Islamic blasphemy laws.
What Sky and others fail to realise however; by not showing the imagery and ‘sharing the risk’, they isolate small publications like Charlie Hebdo – effectively painting a bull’s-eye on their back for extremists to take aim at. And make no mistake – they are always looking for something to take aim at, whether you are doing your best to avoid ‘offense’ or not.
The period after these horrific attacks were without doubt one of the most important tests our news media have ever faced. They have failed this test miserably. We should remember that the next time they begin back-slapping during whatever self-congratulatory press awards ceremony comes along.
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