Why NPR didn’t publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons

January 12, 2015

NPR | The Two-Way

NPR decided not to publish controversial cartoons from satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo because “posting just a few of the cover images” of the Prophet Muhammad “could be misleading,” standards editor Mark Memmott wrote Monday.

Publishing a few magazine covers, Memmott writes, might give readers the impression the magazine is “only a bit edgier” than similar publications. But a more thorough examination of the cartoons would violate “most news organizations’ standards regarding offensive material.”

At NPR, the policy on “potentially offensive language” applies to the images posted online as well. It begins by stating that “as a responsible broadcaster, NPR has always set a high bar on use of language that may be offensive to our audience.

In the aftermath of the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, news organizations have been divided over whether to publish cartoons from the magazines depicting Muhammad, whose likeness is sacrosanct among Muslims. BuzzFeed reported that several news organizations, including The Telegraph, The Associated Press and The New York Daily News, decided to censor the images in some way. Politico noted that the decision seemed to be split along the lines of old and new media, and Poynter’s Kristen Hare talked to news organizations that chose to publish the images.

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