Charlie Hebdo: How the world's press covered the satirical weekly's latest issue

Since its release earlier this week, the latest cover of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which depicts the Prophet Muhammad, has split the world's press in two. While some major news agencies, broadcasters and websites have decided not to run images of the cover, others have decided to do so.

The issue, the first to be released since the magazine's offices were attacked on Jan 7, hits the newsstands on Jan 14. It features a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad crying and holding a "Je suis Charlie" sign under the words: "All is forgiven".

Last week, two gunmen raided Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people including four of its top cartoonists. In the wake of the attack, surviving staff relocated to the offices of another magazine, Liberation, to put together the latest issue. The surviving employees have sworn to uphold the magazine's tradition of lampooning all religions, politicians, celebrities and news events.

Major news outlets including CNN, NBC News and The New York Times did not publish the cover while others such as The Guardian, BBC, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post featured the controversial caricature.

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Charlie Hebdo became a target for extremists after the magazine repeatedly printed cartoons of the Prophet. Many Muslims believe it is forbidden to depict the Prophet in any way.

On why they made the editorial decision not to publish the magazine cover, Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times said: "We do not normally publish images or other material deliberately intended to offend religious sensibilities. Many Muslims consider publishing images of their prophet innately offensive and we have refrained from doing so."

The New York Times however, provided a link in their online coverage for their viewers to click should they wish to see the new cover.

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Editor-at-large Rem Rieder of USA Today, which published the image, said in an interview: "Ordinarily USA Today does not publish images of the Prophet Muhammad. It is frowned upon in Islam and it's offensive to many people. But in this case we decided that the newsworthiness of the first cover of Charlie Hebdo since the awful events of last week really made it essential to do it. It kind of outweighed other concerns."

Similarly, The Washington Post, which published an image of a previous Charlie Hebdo cartoon of the Prophet on its printed op-ed page on Jan 8, a day after the attack, published the new cover on its website on Tuesday. The paper's executive editor Martin Baron said the images did not violate its editorial standards.

"It has to be deliberately, pointedly, needlessly offensive," Mr Baron said.

In Asia, Singapore's The Straits Times has refrained from publishing the latest Charlie Hebdo cover in both its print and online publications.

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Other Asian publications including The Star, the South China Morning Post and The Jakarta Post also did not publish the latest Charlie Hebdo cover. Each publication carried stories on the new issue and included descriptions of what the cover depicted but did not incude images of the magazine in their coverage.

The front page of Charlie Hebdo was released to the media this week ahead of the magazine's publication on Wednesday. Three million copies of the special "survivors' edition" are being printed and will be made available in 25 countries, translated into 16 languages because of international demand.

melheng@sph.com.sg