‘Violence Works’

by Andrew Stuttaford

Reuters:

Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which angered Muslims by publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad 10 years ago, will not republish Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons due to security concerns, the only major Danish newspaper not to do so.

“It shows that violence works,” the newspaper stated in its editorial on Friday. Denmark’s other major newspapers have all republished cartoons from the French satirical weekly as part of the coverage of the attack which killed 12 people in Paris on Wednesday. Many other European newspapers also republished Charlie Hebdo cartoons to protest against the killings.

When Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons by various artists in September 2005, most of which depict the Prophet Mohammad, it sparked a wave of protests across the Muslim world in which at least 50 people died.  

“We have lived with the fear of a terrorist attack for nine years, and yes, that is the explanation why we do not reprint the cartoons, whether it be our own or Charlie Hebdo’s,” Jyllands-Posten said. “We are also aware that we therefore bow to violence and intimidation.”

Jyllands-Posten decided to tighten its security level in the wake of the Paris attack.

“The concern for our employees’ safety is paramount,” it said in Friday’s editorial.

Jyllands-Posten has been in the front line for a long time now (for example, in 2010 Danish police foiled a major planned attack on the newspaper) so this decision, however regrettable (and that’s far too weak a word) is understandable. The paper’s honesty in explaining why it is not republishing the cartoons is to be commended, and in marked contrast to the discreet evasions of too many other media outlets.

In its own way too, the paper’s bluntness is a protest, a protest against the failure of Europe’s governments to give free speech the protection it deserves (if anything, of course, the authorities have been moving in the other direction, determined to enforce the ‘right’ not to be offended).

The current wave of republication of Charlie Hebdo covers and the Danish cartoons is all to the good, but the real test will be in the weeks to come, in the quiet decisions not to publish, not to write, not to draw that no one will want to talk about, the self-censorship that is the most corrosive censorship of all.

Jyllands-Posten 2006: “Free speech is free speech is free speech. There is no but.”

Jyllands-Posten 2015: “We therefore bow to violence and intimidation.”

Darkness falls. 

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