Peter Barron, who edits the Darlington-based Northern Echo, decided against printing an image from the French satirical magazine – which lost eight of its staff during last week’s Paris terrorist attacks.
This week’s edition of Charlie Hebdo features a cartoon image of the Muslim prophet Muhammad holding a ‘Je Suis Charlie’ (which translates as ‘I am Charlie’) placard popularised by free speech demonstrators in the wake of the atrocities.
Peter, pictured left, who shared a reproduction of the front cover on his personal Twitter account, described the decision not to publish it in yesterday’s issue of the Echo as “the hardest decision in my time as an editor” on the social networking site.
Explaining his decision further in an editorial blog, he added: “There are valid arguments for and against re-publishing the front cover of this week’s edition of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, and here at The Northern Echo we have debated long and hard over which position to take.
“We do not believe that bravery or cowardice defines that position. Nor do we share the view of some, on either side of the debate, that the decision is straightforward.
“We completely support the right of the French satirical magazine to be free to make its own judgement to publish a front page cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, in defiance of last week’s Islamist terror attacks.
“Ever since the killings in and around Paris, we have played our small part in supporting the Je Suis Charlie campaign, which has seen people all over the world stand up for the freedom of expression.
“But that freedom should also respect the right of other publishers to take a different view.”
The Echo had run a piece by Tahir Selby, an Imam at a Hartlepool mosque, who urged the title not to print the image due to the offence it would cause Muslims.
Peter added: “He speaks up powerfully in defence of free speech, condemns terrorism, but explains why depicting the Prophet is so offensive to Muslims.
“In his piece, he respectfully asks The Northern Echo not to print the Charlie Hebdo cartoon but to use wisdom and judgement.
“It is a fine line but we have exercised our freedom to decide not to print the cartoon. Many will disagree with that decision but it was not reached through fear or bowing to pressure.
“It was reached through respect for the feelings and beliefs of the vast majority of decent, moderate Muslims like Tahir Selby.”
Elsewhere Peter Rhodes, columnist at the Express & Star, Wolverhampton, has given his take on the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ movement, arguing that there is “no absolute right” to freedom of expression.
He wrote: “Sorry, folks, but after much consideration, Je ne suis pas Charlie.
“I will march against terrorism. I will march in sorrow and solidarity with the bereaved. I will march in rage and despair at the premeditated slaughter of fellow journalists. But I will not march to defend the absolute right to freedom of expression.
“There is no such right, and nor should there be.
“The dismay and anger over cartoons showing Mohammed [sic] is not restricted to the wilder fringes of Islamism.
“It is right at the heart of the beliefs and traditions of Muslims who make up 10pc of the French population.
“It offends the very people whose help we most need to defeat the psychopaths of jihadism.”
Peter Barron’s editorial, which contains a link to Tahir Selby’s piece, can be found here.
To read the full Peter Rhodes column, click here.