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Free speech has
its price
Posted February 24, 2006

Angie Gangi
News Editor

The cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper have sparked the battle of religious right versus freedom of speech around the globe. Outraged Muslims continue to protest against the newspaper that printed the 12 cartoons and the western ideal of freedom of speech.

I love journalism. The pursuit of truth and spread of knowledge drew me to this profession. But it makes me sad to see the way some choose to abuse our freedom of speech.

Islam prohibits making images of the Prophet or any divine messenger, including Jesus. Not only do the cartoons depict Muhammad but one shows the Prophet with a bomb in his turban.

I am not Muslim and I don’t presume to know how to react, but as any intelligent, rational person can predict, these cartoons have been received by the Muslim community as highly offensive images. Religion is a sensitive subject no matter which religion you call your own and insulting any religion is taboo.

What was the purpose of these cartoons? Did they reveal the truth about something that would make life better for millions of people? No. I have seen some of the cartoons and I don’t think they are funny or informative. They were a waste of print.

Many protesters have expressed their outrage over the comics in
unforgivable attacks on embassies and Danish businesses. Protests over the cartoons have turned violent and people have been murdered.

I thought freedom of speech was used to protect the innocent and reveal the truth. The cartoons did neither. Freedom of speech is not supposed to be used to cause harm. It is a powerful tool and with that power comes responsibility.

The Danish editor in charge of publishing the cartoons said they were printed in response to self-censorship on issues regarding Islam. The newspaper has since issued a public apology for running the comics but the damage has been done.

Some people have defended the newspaper’s right to publish the cartoons as freedom of speech. But does freedom of speech excuse bigotry, hate and narrow-mindedness? To insult the beliefs of millions of people is not what journalism is about.

A well known journalistic principle is to “Show, don’t tell.” But in cases like these don’t journalists have an obligation to be sensitive? Is journalism meant to be used to separate people and spread hatred?

To answer this I had to go back to my trusty dictionary.

First, I looked up journalism and was directed to writing. Under writing I found the word communication and there was my answer in a few simple words. To be in communication you must correspond, be in touch, contact, converse, deal with and find a common denominator with another human being.

Yes, communication is the basic purpose of journalism. It is not about printing something because someone dared you not to. It is not about making fun of a religion because it scares or confuses you.

Less spiteful images with no real content and more honest, respectful communication is just what the world needs. Journalism is communication and good communication helps us live peacefully among others.

Angie Gangi, a senior broadcast journalism major, is news editor for the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at agangi@ulv.edu.