Published images of Muhammad raise ethical questions


Ethical issues fill the journalistic world around us.

One of the recurring issues is deciding whether to publish an article/picture or not. As a journalist, it is your job to report the news to the public. But, in some cases, certain magazines or newspapers need to self-censor their work.

Last week in Paris, a French magazine dealt with this tough question of ethics. The French satirical weekly newspaper titled Charlie Hedbo published several crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, naked in weird pornographic positions. The images were viewed as irresponsible and hurtful by the French government and also were considered bad timing.

The French government condemned the photos because they were published during a time of violence and unrest in the Islamic world.  The magazine ran the piece almost directly after the amateur video was leaked in the United States titled ” The Innocence of Muslims,” which also degraded Muhammad.

Under this context, the French government pleaded that the newspaper reconsider publishing the illustrations but the editors refused. The editor in chief of the newspaper, Gerard Biard, said, “What are we supposed to do when there’s news like this?” “Are we supposed to not do that news?”

Two days after the newspaper was published, the government took precautionary measures and closed the French embassies, consulates, culture centers, and schools in around 20 different countries.  Security was raised large amounts due to this small publication but thankfully there were no reports of protests.

French officials said the magazine had a right to publish its work under the law, but didn’t agree with its choice to print the images in a time that might be expected to cause violence.

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