Almost seven in ten journalists believe the media should have carried the offending Danish cartoons once the worldwide protests broke out (table 1). The same proportion has seen the offending cartoons, primarily by searching them out on the Internet.
Journalists are polarized in their explanations of the medias’ non-publication decisions. Those who approve tend to attribute the decisions to respect. As one respondent put it, “Some [cartoons] were simply in bad taste and weren't funny. They were needlessly offensive.” Those journalists who believe that the media ought to have published at least some of the cartoons once the worldwide backlash became evident tend to attribute the non-publication decisions to worry. One respondent captured this perspective in the following words: “There's fear, and a misguided understanding of multiculturalism.”
Journalists are very diverse in their nuanced assessments of this issue, as evidenced in their own words or verbatims, extensively reproduced in this report.
These are some of the key findings from a Press Freedom survey carried out by COMPAS on its own account as a public service February 16-18, 2006. This report, Part I of a two-part report, focuses on the views of journalists about the cartoon controversy. Part II, to be released later this week, reports journalists’ opinions about their degree of freedom to report what they feel needs to be reported, the various threats to press freedom, and the extent to which journalists’ fear of a dismissal is a factor in their reporting.