COMPAS Poll/Survey
February 19, 2006

The Offending Danish Cartoons - Most Canadian Journalists Found the Cartoons on the Web and Want Media to Carry Them; A Mix of Respect and Fear Explains Non-Publication; Non-Publication Plays into the Hands of Muslim Extremists

  Journalists Speak - Part II of a Two Part Series from a National Poll of Journalists
Policy and Opinion
Consumer and Lifestyle


Like clean air, press freedom is vital to the good life and is so often taken for granted.

Most of the surveys and focus groups that COMPAS undertakes are for a paying client. But this one is not. This survey among journalists, conducted February 16-18, will be the first in a series of un-sponsored studies of press freedom, undertaken at our initiative and cost. The purpose is to provide journalists with a platform for conveying their own professionally based concerns about challenges to journalistic freedom.

In this survey, we invited journalists to provide suggestions for future themes. They graciously obliged. Respondents gave us many ideas and themes.

We welcome further suggestions as well as any and all feedback about any aspect of this inquiry.

We are grateful to the journalists who participated in the survey.

Conrad Winn

February 19, 2006

Almost seven in ten journalists believe the media should have carried the offending Danish cartoons once the worldwide protests broke out (table 1). The same proportion has seen the offending cartoons, primarily by searching them out on the Internet.

Journalists are polarized in their explanations of the medias’ non-publication decisions. Those who approve tend to attribute the decisions to respect. As one respondent put it, “Some [cartoons] were simply in bad taste and weren't funny. They were needlessly offensive.” Those journalists who believe that the media ought to have published at least some of the cartoons once the worldwide backlash became evident tend to attribute the non-publication decisions to worry. One respondent captured this perspective in the following words: “There's fear, and a misguided understanding of multiculturalism.”

Journalists are very diverse in their nuanced assessments of this issue, as evidenced in their own words or verbatims, extensively reproduced in this report.

These are some of the key findings from a Press Freedom survey carried out by COMPAS on its own account as a public service February 16-18, 2006. This report, Part I of a two-part report, focuses on the views of journalists about the cartoon controversy. Part II, to be released later this week, reports journalists’ opinions about their degree of freedom to report what they feel needs to be reported, the various threats to press freedom, and the extent to which journalists’ fear of a dismissal is a factor in their reporting.

View / Download complete poll in PDF Click here to download this survey as a PDF