Canadian publications defiant in wake of horrific attack in France
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, January 7, 2015 5:41PM EST
TORONTO -- Several defiant Canadian publications said Wednesday the horrific attack on a magazine in France that left 12 people dead would not deter them from publishing potentially inflammatory material, saying fear of giving offence should not trump freedom of expression.
In Ottawa, for example, Frank Magazine said it would publish all the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad many Muslims consider blasphemous as a show of solidarity with Paris-based Charlie Hebdo.
"We live in a civilized country," said Michael Bate, publisher of Frank Magazine in Ottawa.
"If we don't publish, if we don't support them fully, then who is going to?"
Charlie Hebdo, which saw four of its cartoonists gunned down Wednesday, had consciously indulged in a fierce, long-running and deliberately provocative battle with Islamic extremists -- a stance Canadian media have tended to stay away from.
In a note published online on Wednesday, the head of journalistic standards at CBC said he saw no logic in Bate's solidarity argument.
The cartoons, David Studer said, are offensive to Muslims as a group.
"We wouldn't have published these images before today -- not out of fear, but out of respect for the sensibilities of the mass of Muslim believers," Studer said
"Why would the actions of a gang of violent thugs force us to change that position?"
Andrew Douglas, managing editor of the Halifax-based publication also called Frank Magazine, said he found Studer's line of thinking offensive.
The satirical publication, which was planning a series of new cartoons featuring the Prophet, had no intention of tip-toeing around worrying about hurting someone's feelings, Douglas said.
"As horrific as this is, you can't let it stifle or silence you."
Guy (Bado) Badeaux, a cartoonist with Le Droit based in Gatineau, Que., and a member of the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom, was friends with one of the victims at Charlie Hebdo.
The French magazine was frequently embroiled in lawsuits with the Roman Catholic Church or Muslim groups, Badeaux said, given that it made fun of various religions and beliefs but not of people themselves.
"Of course, their drawings could also serve other causes," Badeaux said.
"That's the danger of satire: (Some) people don't take it for what it is, they take it literally."
Marc-Francois Bernier, who teaches journalism ethics and political communication at the University of Ottawa, said freedom of expression does not equal an obligation to publish.
Rather, he said, it's about the freedom to make responsible choices.
"It can be very dangerous to publish, and for what -- just to affirm your freedoms?" Bernier said.
Some observers said a similar attack was less likely to occur in Canada due to the cultural sensitivity and restraint Canadians typically embrace -- and which is reflected in the country's media.
"We're Canadians. We're polite," said Tom Henheffer, executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, which deplored the attack.
"We tend not to have that same kind of ratcheted up rhetoric and the kind of crude or rude journalism that they have in France."
Along with an editorial called "We are all Charlie Hebdo," the National Post website carried some of the French cartoons.
"Our response to the atrocity in Paris should be to emulate those who lost their lives defending their freedom to speak out as they please," the Post said.
Satire, he said, is all about deliberately "going too far."