April 1, 2009
On Jan. 11, 2008, I was summoned to a 90-minute government interrogation. My crime? As the publisher of Western Standard magazine, I had reprinted Danish cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad to illustrate a news story. I was charged with the offence of “discrimination” and made to appear before Alberta’s Human Rights and Citizenship Commission (AHRCC) for questioning. As crazy as it sounds, I became the only person in the world to face legal sanction for printing those cartoons.
[efoods]”In an investigation interview,” my interrogator, Shirlene McGovern, said, “I always ask people [their intent] … what was the intent and purpose of your article with the cartoon illustrations?” That one sentence summed up the commission’s illiberal nature. The idea that the government could haul in a publisher and force him to answer questions about his political beliefs didn’t seem extraordinary to this woman. Apparently, it was all in a day’s work.
And what was my intent and purpose? I’ve been asked that question a hundred times since I published the cartoons, and I always answer the same way: The images — and the reaction they caused — were newsworthy. As a magazine publisher, I am in the news business. My colleagues and I wanted to show our readers what the fuss was about. But when a government officer demanded to know why I’d dared publish the cartoons, that matter-of-fact answer just didn’t seem appropriate.
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