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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Those cartoons

The editor of Cardiff University's student newspaper, Gair Rhydd, has been suspended after publishing one of the caricatures, which sparked protests across the world when it was previously published by a Danish newspaper. I understand that it was done so in the context of a legitimate news story detailing the aftermath of the original publication of the cartoons.

According to the South Wales Echo the Students' Union has justified their action in taking disciplinary action and pulping the entire edition of the newspaper by accusing the editor of actioning irresponsibly:

A spokeswoman for the Cardiff University Students' Union apologised for any offence caused by the cartoon and said: 'The editorial team enjoys the normal independence associated with the press in the UK and is expected to exercise those freedoms with responsibility, due care and judgement.'

Clearly, they have changed the normally understood meanings of 'freedom' and 'independence'. It seems to me that although the re-publication of this cartoon may have caused offence, it was used in a perfectly legitimate way and the paper's editor had every right to publish it. The actions of the student union run contrary to basic rights of freedom of expression and of the press.

As Oliver Kamm puts it:

There is a common view that, while publication of the original cartoons was justified, their emergence as a cause of friction entails that they should not be republished. As Parris notes, this has it the wrong way round. The cartoons are indifferent, crude and unfunny, and ought not to have found editorial space when submitted. Now that they have caused widespread offence, it is imperative that they be widely published and circulated. The defence of a free society is the defence of its procedures, not its output. Some of that output will be offensive and much will be valueless. We have a right to criticise it, and a moral obligation never, never to complain that our hurt feelings require its suppression.

On this, he is absolutely right.
Excellent post.

The Student Union has clearly broken the University's Code of Conduct with respect to free speech.

"Any member or employee of Cardiff University who has intentionally or recklessly prejudiced freedom of speech or lawful assembly within its precincts will be subject to disciplinary proceedings."

The University itself may have broken its own code / acted illegally by contravening section 43 of the Education Act (no. 2) 1986 - which clearly states that it has a duty to ensure freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees.

I hope you will pursue this issue with both parties.

By coincidence the Student Union AGM takes place next week...I hope free speech will find plenty of defenders there.
The cartoons were commissioned to test the extent of fear and self-censorship. Kamm's view that they have little merit as cartoons is hardly the point.

There's no injunction against representation in the Koran although the Hadith does support the objection some Muslims have - but the point is agreed to be the prevention of idolatory, which wouldn't have been an issue in a non-Muslim paper in a non-Muslim state.

If we're going to take into account the Hadith when considering our actions and speech, are we going to have to accommodate the traditional role of women in Islam? Traditional views of homosexuality in Islam?

Ok, so historically, Christian teaching hasn't been great on thes tow either. But Christians don't threaten me, plausibly, with violence if I draw, write or say stuff they don't like.
Kamm's point is that we should not allow the sensibilities of others to prevent us exercising our freedom of speech regardless of the quality of the material. Nobody is saying that the habits and customs of other religions should be imposed on us.
I know Kamm isn't saying that others' religion and habits should be imposed on us. But other people are saying exactly that.
OK, then we agree. We must be free to express ourselves as we wish subject only to the rule of law.
Yes, but with attempts to change the law (incitement to relgious whatever) and bizarre and partial application of the existing law, it's not enough to say that we all agree to express ourselves as we wish within the law.

Do you think anyone would publish another Satanic Verses in the UK?

And by the way, have you noticed these cartoons were republished in an Egyptian newspaper last October.


Anyone calling for a boycott of Egypt? No?
I do not disagree with the thrust of these remarks.
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