We, the concerned citizens of the University of Texas at Austin community and elsewhere, were stunned by the decision of the editorial board of The Daily Texan to fire cartoonist Stephanie Eisner on March 28, 2012.
Ms. Eisner drew a cartoon related to the Travyon Martin shooting incident in Florida, and this cartoon was published in The Daily Texan on March 27. Her cartoon lamented the national media framing the narrative of the shooting in simplistic and racialist terms.
Unfortunately, a minority within the campus community perceived racism within the cartoon itself and in the resultant controversy pressured the editorial staff to fire Eisner. Disappointingly, the editorial board complied to this vitriolic and narrow-minded minority and it removed Ms. Eisner from its staff.
The decision is an insult to journalistic independence, our national values of free speech and a free press, and the right to dissent from popular or prevailing viewpoints. Regardless of one's views of the cartoon itself, we find it alarming that Ms. Eisner would be shunned and silenced for expressing her views.
These values are not compatible with the liberal democratic values of our society. Ms. Eisner should be applauded for her courage and integrity, and we call upon the editorial board to reinstate her to her position as cartoonist.
We do not discount the stresses and tribulations that journalists face in defending their viewpoints to hostile readership.
Kurt Westergaard, the Danish author of the controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoons, has faced repeated attempts on his life for cartoons far more incendiary and offensive than anything Ms. Eisner has ever drawn. Yet his newspaper responded by republishing his cartoons --- an act of defiance that spoke volumes of a free society that did not hesitate to defend its values in the face of opprobrium or even violence.
We call on The Daily Texan to affirm its commitment to liberal democratic values and recognition of journalistic courage. We call on The Daily Texan to reinstate Ms. Eisner.
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