Two Daily Illini editors suspended from jobs

CHAMPAIGN – Two Daily Illini editors were suspended from their jobs Tuesday after the paper received complaints about anti-Muslim cartoons.

Editor-in-chief Acton H. Gorton said the Daily Illini's publisher suspended him and the newspaper's opinions section editor, Charles Prochaska, for two weeks pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

"I'm very disappointed. I think this is nothing more than a coverup," Gorton said.

On Feb. 9, Gorton and Prochaska ran six of the 12 Danish cartoons lampooning Muhammad that were originally published in Denmark.

On Monday, other editors complained that they were kept out of the decision-making process, in a lengthy and critical opinion piece.

Daily Illini staffers were keeping low-key on the topic Tuesday.

Ronald Yates, a member of the Illini Media Company board as well as dean of the College of Communications, said Publisher Mary Cory wanted students to take a hand in the investigation as a learning experience.

The Daily Illini, published by Illini Media, is independent of the university, though it has faculty members on its governing board.

The two managing editors both said they had serious issues with the way the cartoons were published.

"In my personal view, they should have never been published," said Shira Weissman, managing editor for presentation.

"The decision was made by a select few people in the newsroom. We're not going to issue any formal comments on the matter," she said.

Jason Koch, managing editor for reporting, said "my opinion was if we were going to do it, we needed to do it in a different manner" with more explanation of the context and intent.

The editor said the publication was presented to him as a fait accompli.

"The completed page was shown to me at 5 the night it was done, with the understanding it was not to be changed," Koch said.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, Moein Khawaja walked around the Illini Union's south patio, wearing a sign that said, "Look! Crazy rioting Muslim."

The UI graduate was calm and enjoying the laughs he got, along with a few glares, as students protested the Daily Illini for running the cartoons.

Khawaja said he receives harassing e-mail as a result of being in a Muslim student mail list, and said the publication of the cartoons raised questions of security for him.

He said the publication seemed like a publicity stunt. "Their opinions page was empty for a month before this, and now it's full," he said.

At least 17 groups co-sponsored a noon rally, said Reem Rahman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations UIUC Chapter.

She stressed that her fellow Muslim students "absolutely respect" the right of free speech, but not to the deliberate disparagement of an ethnic or religious group.

She said the issue was not free speech but responsible journalism.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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