Wednesday, February 15, 2006

American Libraries Direct poll

In the current issue of American Libraries Direct, the survey question is,

Should librarians support the right of newspapers to publish commentary or images offensive to Muslims or other religions?

How should librarians respond, especially given the charged political and religious climate? Interestingly, the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights states,

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgement of free expression and free access to ideas.

Respondents seem to have voted accordingly. At last check, the ayes had it by a margin of 3 to 1.


Barbara said...

There was a fascinating discussion of this issue on the Lehrer Newshour with a panel US newspaper editors and journalism teachers. One argued US newspapers should reprint the cartoons so that people could understand the conflict; they were newsworthy and part of the record - though they should run inside and with full context. Another said his paper had decided not to reprint the cartoons but described them verbally. The nub of the matter is that the significant objection by Muslims wasn't about commentary, or making fun of the Prophet, it was that his image was depicted at all.

It's an interesting issue. Newspapers routinely avoid publishing images that people will find offensive, tasteless, or upsetting. Of course any political cartoon will offend someone, but primarily because of its political position (and whatever ridicule for the other side comes with it). But in this case the Danish paper offended a segment of the population in order to demonstrate that it was the newspaper's right to do so. The cartoons themselves weren't particularly insightful or expressive.

So while I support the right of newspapers to publish material that might be offensive to Muslims, I fervently hope they won't publish it simply to offend Muslims and demonstrate they have a right to do so.

Alec said...

It appears that my graduate alma mater's student newspaper published the cartoons.

Barbara said...

Here's an interesting interview with two US cartoonists. Spiegelman is best known for Maus but also published In the Shadow of No Towers last year about the 9/11 attacks, a very interesting and personal response that is also highly political.