Belarus Jails Prophet Mohammad Cartoon Publisher

Reuters, January 18, 2008

Belarus on Friday jailed for three years an editor of an independent newspaper who reproduced cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad that first appeared in Denmark in 2005 and caused mass demonstrations across the Muslim world.

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Belarussian authorities shut down the “Zgoda” (Consensus) paper in March 2006, around the time when other European journals began reprinting the cartoons. The security service, still known by its Soviet-era name, the KGB, began an investigation after Muslims in the ex-Soviet state complained.

Editor Alexander Sdvizhkov was sentenced to three years in jail in a closed session of the court for incitement of religious and national hatred.

“May God and the holy cross be with us,” Sdvizhkov said afterwards. His lawyer said she would appeal.

Muslims constitute about two or three percent of the 10 million residents of the country wedged between Russia and three members of the European Union. The Muslim community had called for leniency in the case.

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Ten days after a Golf Channel anchor was suspended for her use of “lynch” in commentary on Tiger Woods, an editor was fired Friday for illustrating the controversy with a noose on the cover of Golfweek magazine.

Dave Seanor, vice president and editor who took responsibility for the noose cover of the Jan. 19 issue, was replaced by Jeff Babineau.

“We apologize for creating this graphic cover that received extreme negative reaction from consumers, subscribers and advertisers across the country,” Turnstile Publishing Co. president William J. Kupper Jr. said. “We were trying to convey the controversial issue with a strong and provocative graphic image. It is now obvious that the overall reaction to our cover deeply offended many people. For that, we are deeply apologetic.”

Turnstile is the parent company of Golfweek, which has a circulation of about 160,000.

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PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem called the Golfweek cover “outrageous and irresponsible” and accused the magazine of tabloid journalism. He distanced himself from the firing of Seanor with a statement from the PGA Tour that Finchem merely was responding to an inquiry, and that his comments were not a “call to action.”

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The episode began Jan. 4 during the second round of the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship when Tilghman and analyst Nick Faldo were discussing possible challengers to Woods.

Faldo suggested that “to take Tiger on, maybe they should just gang up [on him] for a while.”

“Lynch him in a back alley,” Tilghman said, laughing.

Golf Channel issued a statement four days later to say it regretted the comment and that Tilghman had apologized to Woods. But when the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded on CNN that she be fired, Golf Channel suspended Tilghman for two weeks.

The Golfweek cover shows a noose against a purple sky with the title, “Caught in a Noose.” The subtitle said, “Tilghman slips up, and Golf Channel can’t wriggle free.” For many, the noose is symbol of lynchings in the Old South. According to Tuskeege University, 3,466 blacks were lynched in the United States from 1882 to 1968.

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In an editorial, the magazine explained why it felt the Tilghman story deserved so much attention. It was accompanied by a cartoon that showed Sharpton holding a noose and offering it to a pair of Golf Channel employees staring into a hole of thin ice, presumably where Tilghman had been standing.

“One [potential] cover we had this week was on the young Australian phenom Jason Day,” Babineau said Friday in an interview on the Dan Patrick radio program, “and had we had to do it over again, certainly we wish we could go back to Monday and put that one on the cover.”

Babineau said he will write a story in the next issue of Golfweek to address the controversy.

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The harshest criticism came from Finchem. The PGA Tour is in the second year of an unprecedented 15-year contract with Golf Channel to broadcast its weekday coverage and full coverage of 14 tournaments.

“Clearly, what Kelly said was inappropriate and unfortunate, and she obviously regrets her choice of words,” Finchem said in a statement. “But we consider Golfweek’s imagery of a swinging noose on its cover to be outrageous and irresponsible. It smacks of tabloid journalism. It was a naked attempt to inflame and keep alive an incident that was heading to an appropriate conclusion.”

The tour issued a statement Friday that said Finchem’s comments were “a response to an inquiry and an expression of the tour’s dissatisfaction with Golfweek’s choice of a cover image.” The tour said Golfweek’s decision on its editorial leadership was an internal matter.

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Meanwhile, CBSSports.com reported Thursday that Jack Peter, chief operating officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame, said tour officials had told the magazine it might withdraw $50,000 in advertisements for the World Golf Village.

“Jack was not speaking on behalf of the PGA Tour,” spokesman Ty Votaw said Friday. “I can categorically tell you the PGA Tour has not threatened any advertising pull.”

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publishers

The controversial cover, now removed from Golfweek’s website.

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