Crikey reporter Sophie Black writes:

David Fagan at the Courier-Mail
can boast the dubious distinction of being the only Australian
newspaper editor to OK the publication of one of the Muhammad cartoons.
The only problem is he refuses to talk about it.

The offending
cartoon was buried away on page 17 of Saturday’s edition as part of a
larger report on the resulting riots, but the finger pointing has only
really picked up in the last 24 hours, with Opposition leader Kim Beazley, among others, attacking the decision to publish.

Most
other papers which published the cartoons have editorialised on to the
importance of free speech to justify their decision. But not only has The Courier-Mail
not editorialised on its decision, Fagan’s office told Crikey this
morning that he won’t be commenting at all, despite numerous requests
from news outlets.

Why is he being so coy? Maybe it was
published “to get the paper’s name up in lights,” says Associate
Professor of Journalism at Griffith University Michael Meadows. “I
think it was a half-hearted attempt to get in on the act, and ethically
there are some questions around the degree of responsibility that the Mail exercised. I don’t think there will be a huge backlash, but Fagan should come out and comment.”

Fagan
“made his statement by publishing the cartoon and further comment would
be redundant…I guess that’s what he’s thinking,” Media commentator
John Henningham told Crikey. “But it would be interesting to hear his
views on this, given that he’s the only Australian paper to publish the
cartoon…The fact is that it’s become a media event in itself.”

Meanwhile, the reader feedback is pouring into the Mail.

Peter Fray

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