Professors at U of I, WSU Question Charlie Hebdo's Satire

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A Washington State University dean of communications is questioning the purpose of publishing offensive cartoons such as those that appeared in Charlie Hebdo, triggering a terrorist attack on the Paris-based satirical newspaper, leaving 12 people dead.

"Is the point of journalism to report the news to hold people in power accountable or is the purpose of news to offend?" Lawrence Pintak, founding dean of WSU's Edward R. Murrow College of Education asks in this morning's Lewiston Tribune. "Are they informing or inflaming?"

The Tribune reports that Pintak said any news organization had the right to publish "horribly offensive cartoons" but needed to bring a level of responsibility to their work.

Meanwhile, the Tribune also heard from Dr. S.M. Ghazanfar, who is Muslim and a University of Idaho professor-chair emeritus of economics. He said the provocative cartoons were obscene.

"This is not a very good reason, in my opinion," Ghazanfar told the Tribune. "Just publishing them can be very offensive and provocative to some people."

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Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks was put under police protection after he drew the Prophet Muhammad as a dog in 2007, which led to a $100,000 bounty on his head. Vilks has particular insight into the debate.

"When you take out one of the few bastions of freedom of expression we have, and it has been taken out, who dares to publish anything now?" Vilks told Reuters. "If you do a cartoon picture of Jesus or the Pope it can be published, but the Prophet Mohammad is banned from every proper media. It is regulated by fear mixed with political correctness." 

Meanwhile, Charlie Hebdo is planning to publish a special "survival" edition on Wednesday, Jan. 14. It will be limited to eight pages instead of the usual 16, but 1 million copies will be printed, which is far more than the newspaper's usual 60,000-copy print run.