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February 14, 2006

Censored, Suspended and Betrayed (Updated)

Topics: Understanding Islam

The editor in chief of a student-led newspaper serving the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been suspended for printing the now infamous cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Editor Acton Gorton and his opinions editor, Chuck Prochaska, were relieved of their duties at The Daily Illini on Tuesday while a task force investigates "the internal decision-making and communication" that led to the publishing of the cartoons, according to a statement by the newspaper's publisher and general manager, Mary Cory.

Gorton said he expects to be fired at the conclusion of the investigation, which is expected to take two weeks.

"I pretty much have an idea how this is going to run, and this is a thinly veiled attempt to remove me from my position," said Gorton, a U. of I. senior who took the newspaper's helm Jan. 1. "I am feeling very betrayed, and I feel like the people who I thought were my friends and supporters didn't back me up."

Michelle Malkin asks, "Where is the ACLU?" and provides a link to the cached version of the article, which has already been pulled. If you'd like to express your opinion to the Daily Illini click here.

We provide a full image of the page including the cartoon images (click here) and have reproduced the text below:

Cartoons as published in the Danish Jyllands-Posten
Editor's note
Issue date: 2/9/06 Section: Opinions

To the right you'll see a series of cartoons about the Islamic prophet Muhammad that have fueled a firestorm of debate all over the world.

These cartoons are bigoted and insensitive to the Islamic faith because they are depictions of the prophet Muhammad. In much of the Muslim faith, there is an absolute ban on drawing or portraying religious figures. I agree they are bigoted and insensitive, as do many others.

However, this serious controversy has not been addressed by the press. By refusing to run the cartoons, Americans have no idea how "offensive" they are. The ensuing death threats, riots, murders and laying siege to embassies, leave most of us confused and appalled.

Recently, the U.S. State Department criticized the editorial cartoons, originally published in the Danish Jyllands-Posten. A student newspaper in Wales had all of their papers confiscated after they published the cartoons. Editors have resigned from the New York Press after the cartoons were pulled from the press at the 11th hour. Only one of the major newspapers in this country has run an example of the cartoons.

All across this nation, editors are gripped in fear of printing ... for fear of the reaction. As a journalist, this flies in the face of everything I hold dear. By refusing to print these editorial cartoons, we are preventing an important issue from being debated openly by the public.

If anything, journalists all over this country should be letting the public decide for themselves what to think of these cartoons.

As an editor of a college newspaper, I cannot claim to be a champion for free speech and at the same time restrict it from running its course. My gut has been turning for days questioning how to address this issue. It is only proper that you, the public, are allowed to think for yourselves.

Within the coming days, I hope to promote a dialogue on the campus and in the community as to how people feel about this issue. I encourage everyone to write a letter to the editor and let us know what you think.

Exercise your First Amendment right and don't be afraid to say something unpopular. As citizens, we have a right to use that freedom.

Acton H. Gorton is a senior in Communications and the editor in chief of The Daily Illini.

Update: Interestingly, while the Daily Illini staff says it apologizes to the Muslim community, "it stopped short of saying it disagrees with the decision by editor-in-chief Acton H. Gorton, and the newspaper's opinions sections editor, Charles Prochaska to run the cartoons."
"We want to make it clear that while we do not necessarily disagree with the decision to print these cartoons, we disagree with how they were run," Monday's editorial reads.
Yet the article was pulled from the internet. Here is what appears to have motivated the action against the paper's chief editor:Gorton's decision, however, caused an uproar in the local Muslim community and rankled other Illini staff members after the paper was deluged with negative letters and e-mails.

Update: Volokh Conspiracy writes, "..., one can certainly question whether the board of directors decision is sound. The cartoons are extremely newsworthy; to understand the worldwide events of the last several weeks, people have to be able to see the cartoons. They are indeed easily available online, but it certainly makes sense that a paper publication would want to make them instantly available to its readers, rather than providing a link that they hope their readers will eventually plug into a browser."

Update 2: Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune blogged, "An open letter to Daily Illini alums" linking Hyscience's tracking of the blogging on this story.

Others Blogging:

Posted by tim at February 14, 2006 10:29 PM

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