February 20, 2006

University of Illinois Editors in Hot Water(update).

The University of Illinois’ editor in chief and one other editor have been suspended over publication of the controversial Muhammed cartoons after the rest of the staff goes soft on them. The Daily Illini has taken down the web posting of the original editorial, but thanks to the wonders of the Google cache, we can see the original.

Updated : 02/20/06 : Peoriapundit has published the University of ILL Daily Illini paper's new blog policy.

Hat Tip : Instapundit.

U of I Daily Illini Newspaper Chief Editor Acton H Gordon via Google Cache: To the right you'll see a series of cartoons about the Islamic prophet Muhammad that have fueled a firestorm of debate all over the world.

These cartoons are bigoted and insensitive to the Islamic faith because they are depictions of the prophet Muhammad. In much of the Muslim faith, there is an absolute ban on drawing or portraying religious figures. I agree they are bigoted and insensitive, as do many others.

However, this serious controversy has not been addressed by the press. By refusing to run the cartoons, Americans have no idea how "offensive" they are. The ensuing death threats, riots, murders and laying siege to embassies, leave most of us confused and appalled.

Recently, the U.S. State Department criticized the editorial cartoons, originally published in the Danish Jyllands-Posten. A student newspaper in Wales had all of their papers confiscated after they published the cartoons. Editors have resigned from the New York Press after the cartoons were pulled from the press at the 11th hour. Only one of the major newspapers in this country has run an example of the cartoons.

All across this nation, editors are gripped in fear of printing ... for fear of the reaction. As a journalist, this flies in the face of everything I hold dear. By refusing to print these editorial cartoons, we are preventing an important issue from being debated openly by the public.

If anything, journalists all over this country should be letting the public decide for themselves what to think of these cartoons.

As an editor of a college newspaper, I cannot claim to be a champion for free speech and at the same time restrict it from running its course. My gut has been turning for days questioning how to address this issue. It is only proper that you, the public, are allowed to think for yourselves.

Within the coming days, I hope to promote a dialogue on the campus and in the community as to how people feel about this issue. I encourage everyone to write a letter to the editor and let us know what you think.

Exercise your First Amendment right and don't be afraid to say something unpopular. As citizens, we have a right to use that freedom.

This sparked the following rebuttal by student staff writers.
Daily Illini : "After hearing that CNN and other major newspapers were respectful to not print it, I was shocked that our own paper at such a higher education institution would print it, said Shaz Kaiseruddin, Muslim Student Association president and graduate student. "The fact that comparable anti-Semitic sentiments and other forms of racist expression are socially unacceptable is an indication that Islamophobia is rampant in our community. This is not an issue of free speech, but rather a failure to recognize hate speech."
Hate Speech? The original editorial seems very objective and informative and even encourages discussion and rebuttal. Fair enough opinions but next they go after the editor himself.
Student Press Law Center ILLINOIS — Two editors at The Daily Illini were suspended Monday night, five days after they decided to publish the controversial Danish cartoons of the Muslim prophet, Muhammad.

Mary Cory, the newspaper’s publisher, suspended Editor in Chief Acton Gorton and opinion editor Chuck Prochaska because the two did not consult with the entire editorial board and other editors before publishing the cartoons, said one of the paper's interim editors in chief, Jason Koch.

A statement released by Koch and co-interim editor in chief Shira Weissman said Cory made the decision to suspend Gorton and Prochaska “only after it was requested by other student members of this newspaper and a newsroom-wide staff meeting about the issue.”

Student members of the newspaper staff are not allowed to suspend an editor in chief, according to the statement. Cory, who is not a student, acts as the newspaper’s publisher and adviser.

Gorton said that as editor in chief, he is not obligated to receive the approval of the editorial board or other editors before he publishes his opinion.

“There are no bylaws in [Illini Media Company] or any policies that say that I have to go to the editorial board before I publish anything,” Gorton said.

Today it’s apparent the heat is still on Mr. Gordon.
Chicago Triubune Ezorn Blog : I will no longer be posting about The Daily Illini, which currently employs me as a reporter and night editor. At most, I may link to outside Web sites that have articles about us, or our own articles, but whether or not I am allowed to do such things is at the moment unclear.
As for the reason why I will no longer be posting about The Daily Illini, a new policy has been instituted about personal Web sites and blogs. Essentially, I can no longer blog about work, blog while at work or give an “insider’s scoop” any longer; and doing so will result in immediate termination.
Gordon is getting some support from fellow writers and is sticking by his guns despite the suspension and imminent threat of firing. Josh Rohrscheib, the president of the Illinois Student Senate and a weekly columnist for the Daily Illini, threatens to quit if Acton is fired
• Today, I am proud to be writing for the Daily Illini because of the bold decision made by editor in chief Acton Gorton last week to run cartoons few other papers in the nation would run. College newspapers have a great obligation to present extreme perspectives so they can be rigorously scrutinized in academic communities.
Some have suggested that Mr. Gorton should lose his job. If he is fired, this will be my last column. This is a matter of principle, and his actions do not warrant his termination. Whether or not you agree with Mr. Gorton's decision, it is hard to deny that his actions took courage.
Express your support by contacting the Daily Illini here.

Also see Rhymeswithright.

Updated: One note that I negleted to get in earlier.

SPLC : Gorton said that he believes the suspension will lead to his being fired and he has retained a lawyer, Junaid Afeef, a founding member of the Muslim Bar Association in Illinois and also one of the original members of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers.

Now that's great that a Muslim can support Mr. Gorton for his objective editorial.

By Howie at 11:11 AM | Comments |