To Publish or Not? Does Running Offensive Cartoons Make News Organizations Praiseworthy or Blameworthy?


Communication and Journalism



Document Type

Book Chapter


media ethics, journalistic standards, offense, Mohammad


This chapter explores the ethical justifiability of publishing (and re-publishing) cartoons that depict the prophet Mohammed, an act that Muslims around the world saw as offensive. I argue that the right to free expression is essential, but just because news organizations have the right to publish doesn't mean they must always use that right. In this case, a commitment to responsibility and sensitivity should trump the commitment to freedom. Particularly in instances when the cartoons were republished, the public good that resulted was not commensurate with the harm created. In this case, restraint would have led to the greater common good.

Published in

The Cartoon Debate and the Freedom of the Press

Citation/Other Information

Wyatt, W. (2007). To publish or not? Does running offensive cartoons make news organizations praiseworthy or blameworthy? In B. Debatin (Ed.), The Cartoon Debate and the Freedom of the Press: Conflicting Norms and Values in the Global Media Culture. Muenster/London: LIT Verlag. 35-39.

WorldCat Assession Number: OCLC: 171564240