Student Editor Involved in Decision to Publish Prophet Cartoons Fired
An editor who chose to publish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in the University of Illinois’ student-run newspaper last month has been fired, the paper’s publisher announced this week.
Acton H. Gorton was suspended, with pay, from The Daily Illini days after the Feb. 9 publication of the cartoons, which sparked Muslim protests around the world after they first appeared in a Danish newspaper.
At the time, Daily Illini publishers says the action was taken against Gorton not for publishing the cartoons, but for failing to discuss it with others in the newsroom first.
The Illini Media Co.’s board of directors, which comprises students and faculty, voted unanimously to fire the editor after a review “found that Gorton violated Daily Illini policies about thoughtful discussion of and preparation for the publication of inflammatory material,” according to a statement.
Gorton has says he sought out advice from The Daily Illini’s former editor-in-chief and others before deciding to run the cartoons. He has said that accusations he tried to hide his decision were wrong.
He called his firing a blow against free speech on college campuses.
“If I can be fired, what will other students think who maybe want to challenge the status quo? This is a bad precedent,” he says.
Gorton says he intends to sue the publishers of The Daily Illini, citing, among other complaints, unlawful dismissal.
Board member Adam Jung says he is confident the company “has acted properly on this issue.”
The paper’s opinions page editor, Chuck Prochaska, also was suspended for his role in publishing the cartoons. He declined to be reinstated, the board says.
Prochaska says he and Gorton moved quickly to publish the cartoons because they were newsworthy.
“We had a news story on our hands, with violence erupting about imagery, but you can’t show it because of a taboo, because of a taboo that’s not a western taboo but a Muslim taboo?” he says. “That’s a blow to journalism.”
— Associated Press
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