Belgian Newspaper Apologizes for Depicting President & Mrs. Obama as Monkeys

 Does freedom of the press give you freedom to be racists?  We think not and so do others who aren’t even Americans.


De Morgen, a Belgian newspaper, found itself in the middle of a firestorm over the weekend after it ran an image depicting President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama as apes.  Today, the newspaper apologized as the President arrives in the country for both NATO and EU meetings in Belgium this week.

The startling picture, which De Morgen says was satire, also called the President a drug dealer, with the tagline: “First Black President of The USA Starts Selling Weed.” An obvious false and satirical reference, from a foreigners view, to Washington State and Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana purchases.

De Morgen, known as a progressive newspaper, claims that the cover and accompanying article were attempts at satire meant to skewer racism, not perpetuate it.

That didn’t work out too well for them. Here is the apology.

“When you consider the fragment apart from its context, which is a properly worked out satirical section, then you don’t see the joke but just a picture evoking sheer racism. That was a risk we didn’t consider enough beforehand.”

“We wrongly assumed that racism is no longer accepted, and that in this way it could be the subject of a joke.”

The editors say that overlooked the fact that in the United States, the comparison between blacks and monkeys is still much a negative and cruel insult.

“De Morgen therefore apologises to everyone who may feel insulted by the cartoon. “In this case, we plead guilty of bad taste. We continue to be on the side of those that are battling any form of racism. Don’t hesitate to contact us if we would go too far on a different occasion.”

The “joke” was supposed to be that the image was submitted by Russia’s president Vladimir Putin in light of the Cold-War relationship currently growing between the United States and Russia.

Obama traveled to the Netherlands this week in an attempt to gain support for stiffer sanctions against Russia, making the timing of the “satirical” piece even more startling.

Nigerian-born journalist Chikwa Unigwe tweeted the image above and explained it in context of structural and interpersonal racism in Belgium, sparking swift and sharp social media reaction.



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