Free Speech is More Important than Ever After Charlie Hebdo Attack
If you have been paying any attention to the news today, you know that two terrorists attacked French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo this morning. The two gunmen killed 12 people, 10 Charlie Hebdo staff members and two police officers, and seriously wounded five others before fleeing the scene by car with a third attacker. Witnesses said the gunmen, carrying Kalashnikovs and wearing all black, were shouting Allahu Akbar during the attack.
Charlie Hebdo has received death threats in the past for its often controversial covers and content. Its office was even firebombed in 2011 after the magazine featured a satirical comic of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover. Nothing, however, has been as harmful as the attack today. It was not only a brutal attack that took the lives of 12 people; it was also an attack on free speech.
Journalists are invaluable to our culture. Sometimes they are biased, yes, and sometimes they get things wrong. But journalists are the ones who speak out against governments and stand up for human rights and hold people responsible for their actions. Journalists are part of the system of checks and balances, and if they are attacked for speaking out about the world's issues, one of our most important freedoms is attacked as well.
Charlie Hebdo does not only target Islam. It writes about the political right wing, capitalism, Christianity, and Judaism as well. It takes down religions of all kinds, but radical Islam is the only one to try to take the magazine down.
This is why the freedom of speech is more important now than ever before. We must be able to speak about society without fearing for our lives.
Jodie Ginsburg, CEO of Index on Censorship, an international organisation that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression, released a statement about the attack.
"The ability to express ourselves freely is fundamental to a free society," she wrote. "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."
Twitter stood up in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, spreading the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie), in the wake of this morning's events. Charlie Hebdo's website has been offline since the attack, but it shows the following image:
Free speech is essential to our society; we cannot function without it. I encourage all journalists writers, bloggers, tweeters, and anyone who has something to say about this issue to say it. Speak out. We cannot let fear keep us from saying what we believe needs to be said. Those who came before us had to fight for the right to speak their minds. Do not let their fight be in vain.