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WH offers no criticism of Charlie cover

WH offers no criticism of Charlie cover
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The decision by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to feature the Prophet Muhammad on the cover of the first issue published since last week's deadly terrorist attack on its offices is drawing no criticism from the Obama administration.

In a noticeable shift from prior years, when the White House questioned the judgment of the French weekly, administration officials offered no note of caution on the decision to publish the cartoon.

"We all — in France, in the United States and in many places around the world — support the freedom of journalists, of artists, of creative people, to freely speak their mind, even if you may vehemently disagree with what they're saying, or if you don't," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Tuesday. "That's the beauty of the countries we live in — and what is so important to be protected in the wake of these kinds of incidents."

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The edition of Charlie Hebdo published this week, following the death of a dozen people in the shooting at its Paris newsroom, features the Muslim prophet holding a "Je suis Charlie" sign. The phrase, which translates as “I am Charlie,” has been adopted by protestors and supporters in the wake of the attack. Above the cartoon are the words “Tout est pardonné,” or "All is forgiven."

When asked about Charlie Hebdo in 2012, then-White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the administration had "spoken repeatedly about the importance of upholding the freedom of expression."

But Carney also said the White House had "questions about the judgment of publishing something like this."

"We know that these images will be deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory. … In other words, we don’t question the right of something like this to be published; we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it," Carney said.

Carney's successor, Josh Earnest, noted Monday that Carney had also stressed that the controversial material did not in any way justify violence.

He said Carney was expressing "genuine concern that the publication of some of those materials could put Americans abroad at risk, including American soldiers at risk."

Earnest also said that journalists "should use their independent professional judgment" to decide what to publish.

"Those decisions aren’t just driven by safety; they’re also driven by certain ethics and journalistic standards," Earnest said. "And these are complicated issues but ultimately ones that journalists should make."