Yesterday, I wrote about RTÉ removing a film report on caricatures of Brian Cowen smuggled into two Dublin galleries.
[Kudos at this point to Maman Poulet, who's blog tipped me off to the story.]
Since them, things have grown more serious. The images on the RTÉ website were removed, copy has been edited, and the station apologised for the story.
And according to one source, the government press office rang director general Cathal Goan ‘to tear strips off him’.
Gardaí identified the artist behind the original pictures, and interviewed him.
This is appalling.
The original story is known in the trade as an ‘And Finally’, one of those lighthearted pieces designed to cheer up viewers after half an hour of doom and gloom.
But this story is no longer about a prank.
If RTÉ cannot even report the And Finally, how can we trust it to cover more serious issues?
If the government cannot refrain from interfering with stories it dislikes, then we might as well issue a fatwa on offensive cartoonists right now, and stop pretending we live in a free society.
Because when the police are sent to intimidate cheeky cartoonists, things have already gone too far.