Quantcast
Connect with us

Free speech must not be silenced in the wake of Charlie Hebdo attack

Published

on

- Commentary

I am sure that all British journalists will agree with the statement issued by Jodie Ginsberg , chief executive of Index on Censorship, following the murderous attack on the staff of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo :

“The ability to express ourselves freely is fundamental to a free society. This includes the freedom to publish, to satirise, to joke, to criticise, even when that might cause offence to others. Those who wish to silence free speech must never be allowed to prevail”.

ADVERTISEMENT

Similarly, we can all agree with Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, who described the attack as “an attempt to assassinate the free press”. She added:

“Supporters of free speech and civil liberties must stand together with governments to condemn this act and defend the right of all journalists to do their job without fear of threats, intimidation and brutal murder”.

Doubtless, there will be people who think the magazine was overly provocative in publishing cartoons of Islam’s prophet Mohammed. If so, they should think again.

Let them ponder this key clause in the United Nations’ universal declaration of human rights:

ADVERTISEMENT

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”

Press freedom and the freedom of speech allow for newspapers and individual citizens to express views that are offensive. Britain, in company with countries across Europe and the continents of America and Australia, long ago repealed – or never enacted – laws condemning heretics (and blasphemers) to death.

Although we know that Voltaire never did write the words ascribed to him about the right to speak freely, they are, or should be, our maxim:

ADVERTISEMENT

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

It was certainly the credo of Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief, Stephane Charbonnier, and his staff. They refused to be cowed by the threats and by the firebombing of their offices in November 2011.

As Charbonnier said at the time, the attack confirmed that the magazine had been right to defy Islamist extremists.

ADVERTISEMENT

He said: “If we can poke fun at everything in France, if we can talk about anything in France apart from Islam or the consequences of Islamism, that is annoying”.

That, of course, is the point. We must not only support the right of people to express controversial opinions but be prepared to express them ourselves despite the intimidation.

Now, surely, is the time for the publishers and editors of mainstream publications across the world to honour the murdered staff of Charlie Hebdo by refusing to self-censor. Nothing, including a religion, should be off limits.

ADVERTISEMENT

Satire challenges sacred cows, but it does not slaughter them. Satire hurts, but it does not cause physical injury. Satire wounds, but it does not kill.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2015

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from billionaires and corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

2020 Election

Trump’s absurd anti-Semitic rants are the new normal: Threats and blackmail are all he has left

Published

on

Predicting that Donald Trump will run the most negative campaign in living memory in 2020 does not, of course, take great analytical genius. It feels wrong to use words like "plan" or "strategy," of course, as Trump is merely a bundle of impulses, all of them ugly and mean-spirited. But there can be no doubt that Trump's main campaign strategy will be to blanket the airwaves and social media with spitballing insults and attacks on the Democratic candidate, with an eye towards demoralizing the left, driving down voter turnout and winning as he did in 2016, by the skin of his teeth.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Jeff Sessions’ troubling legacy: He may be gone — but his ideas and policies live on

Published

on

Donald Trump’s former Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have gained some sympathy from the constant attacks he suffered from the president after he recused himself from Robert Mueller’s special investigation. But that should not excuse Sessions from the judgment of historians as they evaluate his leadership of the Justice Department from January 2017 to November 2018. Sessions was arguably the most abusive and disgraceful Attorney General in history.

Sessions previously served as an Alabama Republican Senator since 1997 and he had an extremely conservative voting record. Even before he was a senator, a Republican-controlled Senate refused to appoint Sessions to a Federal District Court judgeship in 1986. This was only the second time in a half century that a federal appointee to the federal judiciary had been rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee for elevation to the federal bench.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump administration proposes daring cure for the coming recession they say isn’t coming

Published

on

The Trump administration has floated a new round of tax cuts for the rich and slashing the payroll tax used to fund Social Security and Medicare to ease worries of a recession, which the White House insists is not happening despite dire warnings from economists and the stock market.

Despite the stock market plummeting over concerns of a looming recession and a survey finding that 74 percent of economists expect a recession to hit in the next two years, President Trump and his aides have have flippantly dismissed concerns of an economic downturn. Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway called recession the “Sesame Street word of the day” and Trump himself has argued that the bad economic outlook is just a conspiracy by economists and the media to make him look bad.

Continue Reading
 
 

Thank you for whitelisting Raw Story!

As a special thank you, from now until August 31st, we're offering you a discounted rate of $5.99/month to subscribe and get ad-free access. We're honored to have you as a reader. Thank you. :) —Elias, Membership Coordinator
LEARN MORE
close-link
close-image