Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Annoy.com Defends Publishing Cartoons



Stacey Almond


Free Speech Site Explains Reasons Behind Publishing Decision

SAN FRANCISCO -- February 8, 2006 -- Annoy.com today defended its decision to publish controversial cartoons which were published in Denmark's Jyllands Posten newspaper, which sparked an international furor among Muslims.

This is not the first time Annoy.com has published controversial content in the face of criticism. In May 2004, Annoy.com published the video of the beheading of Nicholas Berg, an American businessman who was captured in Iraq, and whose beheading was released on the Internet by al Ansars, a group of Islamic militants claiming to be avenging the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Annoy.com’s Editor & Publisher, Clinton Fein, is a prominent First Amendment advocate and successfully fought former Attorney General, Janet Reno, in a challenge to the Communications Decency Act (CDA) that was heard before the United States Supreme Court.

“The decision to publish these cartoons is not designed to provoke, but to place current events into perspective and allow our viewers to make informed decisions with as much information as possible. The very fact that these images seem so innocuous to many in the West, yet have caused such an outcry globally among Muslims demonstrates how vast the cultural differences really are,” said Clinton Fein. “And how important it is for us to engage in this dialog and broaden our understanding.”

Annoy.com has faced its own share of controversy relating to imagery. In 2004, Fein’s image of The Last Supper was ripped off the wall of a San Francisco art show. Just prior to the 2004 election, Fein’s image of President Bush, Who Would Jesus Torture?, depicting the President as Jesus on a crucifix and another of the American flag using the text of the Pentagon’s official Abu Ghraib report and Iraqi torture victim as stars, was destroyed deliberately by Zazzle, the Palo Alto based printing company.

“We are not oblivious to the fact that religious and cultural differences are far more complex than anything I could articulate in a sentence,” added Fein. “But our fundamental belief is this. Freedom of expression is not reserved for those wishing to express their religious beliefs, but also those who question them. It is in that spirit we have decided to publish these images.”

Annoy.com has been involved in public controversies in the past, and has been a strong First Amendment advocate, having fought censorship before the Supreme Court in ApolloMedia v. Reno, and before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in United States v. ApolloMedia.

About Annoy.com
Publicly launched in 1997, Annoy.com is devoted to free speech and the free exchange of ideas. Annoy.com allows visitors to participate in online discussions on topics of social and political interest such as gun control, abortion, health care, the military, the environment, censorship and privacy. The Web site also allows visitors to send anonymous or pseudonymous electronic postcards, related to the discussion topics, to public figures or to persons of the sender's choice.

Annoy.com (http://www.annoy.com)


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