Some in the Russian press have more courage than CNN and the New York Times. If we want the news we can't turn to The Washington Post but might well find it in Gazeta.Ru. There is no reason at all to blame Time or Newsweek for their vile cowardice. We might simply not buy their products and shift our reading habits to include support for outlets that deal better with issues of concern to us. We're seemingly better off with the news from Belarus or the Czech Republic than we are with the L.A. Times.
Russian News Website Warned Over Publishing Mohammed Cartoons
Created: 09.03.2006 21:47 MSK
Gazeta.Ru news website has received official notice after having reprinted the scandalous cartoons of Prophet Mohammed first published in Denmark's Jullands-Posten.
Russia's Federal Service on Law Maintenance Control in Media said in its notice quoted at the website that Gazeta.Ru had "committed an action aimed at arousing religious and social hatred and set up a real threat of causing damage to the social security." The service demanded to "remove the violation" immediately.
The cartoons were published on February 2 at the site in a material entitled "Cartoon War" that wrote on protest among Moslems indignant over Danish cartoons.
Gazeta.Ru editorial staff expressed disagreement with the service. Its editor-in-chief Mikhail Mikhailin said the material and pictures had been aimed at representing the anti-Danish protest in the Muslim world as an important social event.
The website is considering a possibility to challenge the service's notice in a court.
Earlier, Russian newspaper "Our Region+" was closed after having republished the cartoons. The paper editor was charged with arousing national hatred.
Yes, even Belarus has done better than CNN. Belarus is known, if at all, as a nasty little dictatorship. And yet the people of the Belarus press found themselves able to screw up the nerve they needed to print the Mohammed cartoons and suffer the consequences. Not ours, not the BBC.
Belarus Paper Faces Trial Over Prophet Muhammad Cartoons
Created: 22.02.2006 20:36 MSK (GMT +3)
The Belarussian State Security Committee has initiated a criminal case against the Zgoda newspaper for publishing caricatures satirizing the Prophet Muhammad, a source in the country's prosecutor's office told Interfax on Wednesday.
"The criminal case was opened following an investigation carried out by the republic's prosecutor's office and the State Security Committee. The inquiry was conducted at the request of the committee for religious and ethnic affairs and the Muslim community of Belarus," the source said.
"The criminal case was initiated based on charges of incitement of racial, ethnic and religious hatred — Part 1, Article 130 of the Criminal Code of Belarus," he said.
The case materials have already been forwarded to the State Security Committee.
Cartoonists draw support
Political lampooners gird for a busy schedule in run-up to elections
By Kristina Alda Staff Writer, The Prague Post
March 08, 2006
'We're flying to make contact with new civilizations ... We'd better leave the cartoonist at home ...'
If Prime Minister Jiří Paroubek loses in June's general election, cartoonists across the country — regardless of their political affiliation — will weep.
Like former Social Democratic Prime Minister Miloš Zeman, Paroubek is a favorite among those who make a living drawing political caricatures for local papers and magazines.
"He's got such great strong features," says Štěpán Mareš, 33, who draws the "Zelený Raoul" comic strip for the weekly magazine Reflex. "He's always saying ridiculous things and getting caught up in scandals."
Politicians do battle on television and on the campaign trail, but it is often their depiction on the opinion pages of periodicals that shape public discussion. With the election approaching, cartoonists are sharpening their pencils and their wits, eager to administer a few more jabs at Paroubek, Health Minister David Rath, Culture Minister Vítězslav Jandák and other strong-featured political figures who function as fodder for the funnies.
But that preparation comes at a time when their profession is under more scrutiny than ever, after caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that first appeared in a Danish newspaper ignited weeks of violent protest throughout the Muslim world and fresh debate over the basic right of free expression.
Miroslav Kemel, 42, a cartoonist who draws for Mladá fronta Dnes, likens the pre-election period to harvest time. "Politicians really stick their necks out," he says.
Which is just the way cartoonists like it. "It's great," Mareš says. "They're all trying to outdo one another in who can act more stupid."
But Mareš, whom former Minister Without Portfolio Karel Březina sued several years ago for a particularly unflattering likeness, insists he never tries to be malicious without reason. "All I do is offer a slightly warped mirror," he says.
That has been the role of cartoonists since man learned to draw. Like the Shakespearean fool, cartoonists can get away with underlining certain unpleasant truths that a regular political commentator might miss.
"Cartoons were always an important political tool," says Jakub Končelík, a media studies lecturer at Charles University's Faculty of Social Sciences.
One reason is because Czechs love humor, especially dark humor. "It's so natural for Czechs to make fun of those who rule," says Končelík.
"In times of trouble, Czechs like to poke fun," he says. "During World War II, the Germans called Czechs 'the laughing beasts.' It's their way of dealing with the situation."
Fearing for cartoon liberty
Which is why most Czech cartoonists found Europe's reaction to the outrage over the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad worrying.
"I think it's disturbing that new democracies such as Slovakia and the Czech Republic are backing Denmark, while many West European countries are holding back," says Mareš.
Mareš questions the comments of Javier Solana, the European Union's high representative for common foreign and security policy, who has promised that something like the publishing of the Muhammad cartoons will never happen again. "But how can he guarantee that?" Mareš says.
According to Mareš, the answer would be censorship. "I'm starting to fear for the liberty of cartoonists," he says.
Končelík is also concerned. "The whole controversy surrounding the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad was a matter of an utter lack of understanding on both sides," he says. "To many Muslims it's inconceivable that the Danish prime minister can't influence the content of a daily paper."
Of course, even politically independent papers in democratic countries practice a certain level of self-censorship.
"Under the communist regime, I encountered censorship on a regular basis," recalls Vladimír Jiránek, 67, who draws for Lidové noviny and is arguably the country's premier cartoonist. "It taught me to express myself in more indirect ways with subtext rather than saying something overtly."
Jiránek says the general rule for choosing a subject is that his or her actions must in some way set the tone of political culture in this country.
"I try to maintain some distance when doing caricature," he says. "For some people caricatures are toothless and uninteresting."
It's no easy task. A cartoonist's typical day usually starts with reading all the country's major papers and following the political debates on television.
Mareš says he spends 10 to 12 hours a day drawing, including the weekends.
In the past he has come across certain topics that were off limits for some Czech papers, he says. "It was nearly impossible to make fun of religion, the pope, Gypsies and other minorities, even if the jokes were innocuous," he says.
Kemel, the cartoonist who draws for Mladá fronta Dnes, notes that cartoonists themselves practice self-censorship.
Given the current political climate, he says he wouldn't draw something along the lines of the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. Otherwise, though, Kemel says he has no taboo topics when drawing for an intelligent audience.
"A cartoonist should be able to appropriately react to world events," says Kemel. "He can't live detached from reality."
Kristina Alda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
What then do we in the modern West get from our journalists and intellectuals who do live in a phantasy world of their own making, one that refuses to report on the world as it is? We get much tripe. We get our news from each other from the Internet. We meet and exchange our ideas and opinions. We must do so because we cannot trust the intelligentsia not to lie to us from the cloud cuckoo land they inhabit. Who needs them? Only the police states and Left dhimmi fascists who love them. But not I. Not you. Thank God for courageous people in Russia, Belarus, and the Czech Republic bringing us our news.