European press and cartoons


A man reads France Soir.
© BBC News

On Wednesday, February 1, 2006, some dozen European newspapers apparently came to a simultaneous decision: the time had come to declare solidarity with Jyllands-Posten or to express their own views on the controversy. Publications in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain printed one or more of the cartoons. Germany’s Die Welt, for example, ran the cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban on the front page and three others inside.[1] TheBerliner Zeitung printed two. Italy’s La Stampa ran a cartoon on page 13, while Barcelona’s El Periodico and Madrid’s El Mundo had photos of the drawings.[2] No British or US publications chose to reproduce the cartoons.

France Soir. In France, France Soir, with a circulation of 100,000, chose to print all 12 under the headline: “Yes, we have the right to caricature God.”[3] A front-page cartoon pictured Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian gods on a cloud; the Danish drawings were on an inside page. The paper’s owner, Raymond Lakah, who happened to be Franco-Egyptian, swiftly fired the managing director (editor), Jacques Lefranc.[4]Lakah said the firing was intended "as a powerful sign of respect for the intimate beliefs and convictions of every individual."[5] France Soir sold 25 percent more papers than usual that day.[6]

The widespread re-publication of the cartoons provoked instant criticism from Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and others. There were demonstrations in Turkey. Syria recalled its ambassador to Denmark. The French Foreign Ministry also weighed in: it issued a stern statement that while freedom of expression was valuable, the ministry “condemns all that hurts individuals in their beliefs or their religious convictions.”[7] The French Council of the Muslim Faith (Conseil du Culte Musulman) condemned the France Soir cartoons as a “real provocation” and the National Federation of Muslims of France promised a suit against the newspaper. Meanwhile, one of France’s most influential newspapers—Le Monde—had held back on publishing the cartoons.



[1] “‘Mohamed met bomhoed’ komt overall,” De Volkskrant, February 3, 2006, http://www.volkskrant.nl/buitenland/article208225.ece.

[2] Angela Charlton, Associated Press, “Papers Republish,” February 1, 2006.

[3] France Soir, a once-prominent national newspaper, was in bankruptcy proceedings at the time.

[4] For the record, LeFranc was rehired the following day.

[5] “Muhammad cartoon row intensifies,” BBC News, February 1, 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4670370.stm.

[6] A free newspaper, Vingt Minutes (20 Minutes) also reprinted the cartoons.

[7] Associated Press, February 2, 2006.