This episode of Channel 4’s ‘The Dispatches‘ tackles the concept of free speech within the context of Islam in the United Kingdom. On September 30th, 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published editorial cartoons featuring Islam’s prophet Mohammed. From this horrendous action of publishing line drawings there was much wailing, gnashing of teeth and the taking of life amongst Muslims all across the world.
So this episode was going to squarely tackle the issue of free speech with this media action as a backdrop. Or was it? You can watch the whole thing but the interesting part for me came at the 17:30 mark. The chair of the debate asked the studio audience to decide if they wanted to see the cartoons or not by pressing ‘1’ for yes, or ‘2’ for no on their voting devices: 69% voted yes.
But wait! Even though the studio audience wanted to see the cartoons, or at least witness them being shown on a British TV show (which is rarer than spotting the Marsh Sandpiper in Gloucestershire County, apparently [see here]), the debate chair took out a prepared statement from Channel 4 which stated in part:
We are aware that the cartoons are designed to be deliberately provocative and have caused significant offence to Muslims. They should therefore be shown on television only if there is an over-riding editorial justification.
In the opinion of the chair, apparently, there was not. And that was that. Of course the show continued to bang on in a tired bohemian way but why bother? Channel 4 says the cartoons are offensive, and therefore they must not be shown. Enjoy.