Press Council upholds complaint
November 17, 2003
The Australian Press Council has upheld in part a complaint by Nathan Potaznik concerning the publication by The Sydney Morning Herald of a cartoon by Moir that juxtaposed images of the Warsaw Ghetto and the wall being built by Israel on the West Bank.
The council is satisfied, however, that the actions taken by the Herald in response to criticism of the cartoon constitute an adequate apology for its self-confessed "lapse of judgement".
On August 12, 2003 the Herald published the Moir cartoon captioned "The road to peace". It comprised two separate images of roads blocked by walls - a wall labelled "Warsaw 1943", and a wall labelled "West Bank 2003".
Mr Potaznik argued that the publication of the cartoon breached several of the council's principles. He complained that the comparison of the two walls was false, and a vicious and racist distortion; that the representation lacked fairness and honesty; that it disregarded the sensibilities of readers; and that it placed gratuitous emphasis on the Jewish people.
Response to the cartoon from readers was swift, and the following day the Heraldpublished several letters under the headline "Offensive to compare Warsaw ghetto with West Bank". On August 14, further letters were published, along with an article about the West Bank wall by David Knoll of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.
On August 16, the Herald's editor took the unusual step of using the Postscript column on the letters page to acknowledge the paper's "lapse of judgement" and to apologise for the offence caused by the cartoon.
Mr Potaznik considered that the paper's apology for offending many readers was insufficient. He said it should also have retracted, and apologised for, the "egregious factual errors" underlying what he saw as the cartoon's implication, via reference to the Warsaw Ghetto, that the West Bank wall had been erected with a view to enclosing, and ultimately exterminating, the Palestinians.
The council has consistently taken the view that cartoonists should have considerable freedom to comment on events, and that exaggeration and caricature are legitimate vehicles for conveying their message.
This does not imply unfettered licence to be inaccurate or seriously offensive, and cartoonists, like writers, must be accountable for what they produce. Where lapses and errors occur, correction and apology is the appropriate course of action.
The council agrees that the cartoon was so offensive as to breach its principles and, to that extent alone, upholds the complaint.
The council is satisfied, however, that the space and prominence given to criticism of the cartoon, the publication of a balancing article on the West Bank wall, and the prominent apology by the editor adequately discharges the Herald's responsibilities to publicly admit its failure to meet appropriate ethical and journalistic standards on this occasion.
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/11/16/1068917672531.html