The Charlie Hebdo Affair in the American Journalistic Field

  • Lyombe EkoEmail author


The aim of this chapter is to explore conceptualizations of the different aspects of the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoons affair in the journalistic field of the United States. The chapter explores how the leading American media outlets managed the tension between the human right of freedom of expression and the religious rite of respect for the sacred, using as a case study, deployment of the journalistic right of editorial independence as justification to republish or not to republish the controversial Je Suis Charlie Mohammed cartoon. In effect, the Charlie Hebdo affair exposed a journalistic rift within the American media confraternity. Using their right of editorial independence granted under the First Amendment, some of the major American media outlets and aggregators republished Charlie Hebdo’s Je Suis Charlie Mohammed cartoon, arguing that it was an integral part of the news. However, a smaller number of media outlets, notably, the New York Times and CNN, also decided not to republish any Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoons at all in their reporting. The rationale for this decision was fear of the repercussions of reproducing Mohammed cartoons on their international bureaus, and respect for the religious sentiments of their Muslim readers and audiences. Large sections of the American media presented the Charlie Hebdo assassinations as evidence that the journalistic paradigm—and its worldviews, professional norms, routines, independence, and autonomy—was under attack. As such, they assumed a defensive posture, a an attitude of resistance against external threats to the journalistic profession and its independence. A common journalistic resistance tactic is paradigm surveillance. This is a process whereby media outlets check the performance of other media outlets and make a determination whether these other members of the confraternity are doing their part to defend the profession against governmental and private acts of intimidation and censorship.


Journalistic paradigm Globalization Editorial independence Paradigm resistance The First Amendment American exceptionalism 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Journalism and Creative MediaTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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