Most Australian Media Outlets Refrain from Publishing Controversial Cartoons

February 7, 2006

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald/AAP

On February 7, 2006 The Sydney Morning Herald/AAP reported, "Cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have enraged the Muslim world have had limited exposure in Australia, where the mainstream media has taken the pragmatic attitude that they are not worth the trouble. The Brisbane Courier-Mail has published one cartoon, while an Australian blogger, Tim Blair, has published 12 of them on his website, on the grounds that Muslim bookshops in Sydney have sold books attacking Judaism and Christianity. The Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, remained ambivalent, saying: 'It's not for me to interfere with the freedom of the media, but it's for me to identify what the consequences might be if it's published.' The Opposition foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, said the guiding principle should be journalistic merit. '[But] we should not be kowtowing to anybody when it comes to freedom in this country,' he said... Some of Australia's biggest newspapers have declined to publish the cartoons. The Herald's editor, Alan Oakley, said newspapers often engaged in self-censorship. 'To have a debate about pornography you don't have to publish pornographic pictures,' he said. The editor of The Daily Telegraph, David Penberthy, said: 'You do have a bit of a social responsibility in the newspaper to think through those kinds of things, particularly at a time when there have been a lot of tensions in Sydney between Anglo-Australians and particularly Lebanese Muslims.' The editor of Melbourne's Herald Sun, Peter Blunden, said he did not need to publish the cartoons to show press freedom, and to do so was 'more trouble than it's worth'. 'Why would you put people at risk?' he asked."