Charlie Hebdo Attack: In support of the freedom to express

Terrorist attacks against the French satirical paper only confirm one thing: the world isn’t ready for complete freedom of expression—but it needs to be.


Paris was thrown in to the world’s spotlight yesterday, when three armed gunmen entered the office of Charlie Hebdo – a French satirist magazine – and opened fire, killing 12 people, including five of its cartoonists and its editor.

The magazine, known for its controversial and extremely provocative takes on the happenings of the world, was reportedly attacked by militant Islamists who have long been offended by the publication’s cartoons against their religion, chanting as they were, ‘Allau Akbar’ as they fired at the offices of Charlie Hebdo  (the magazine was firebombed in November, 2011, after carrying an offensive cartoon featuring the Prophet Muhammad).

The outpouring of sympathy and support for the victims and their families have been numerous, but even more in number has been the outcry against the attack on the principle of freedom of expression. Cartoonists, professional and amateur, from over the world have been showing their solidarity with the cartoonists, the magazine, and the right to freedom of expression through the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie):

Publications across the world have also come out in support of Charlie Hebdo, by publicising their older cartoons and publications, such as Vox (who took the trouble to translate and explain their cartoons), French publication Le Télégramme, and the Boston Globe:

The stifling of freedom of expression isn’t a stranger to us here in India either. Movies, literature, and many forms of art have faced the wrath of extremist backlash who are offended by content in the public domain that they perceive as blasphemous in nature, #BoycottPK being the most recent in a long line of campaigns, including those against MF Hussain, Salman Rushdie, and many more.

If the extremist movement attempted to quell the voice of those they were offended with, the opposite seems to have happened. Most of us, who hadn’t ever hear of Charlie Hebdo, seen the cartoons or connected with the culture of satire in France, were treated to it from across the Internet, and some outstanding good art from supporters who drew in solidarity of the incident, like this one from The Oatmeal.

The right to express isn’t just about saying the things you want to say; it’s about accepting that there are people around you who may have differing opinions and that they are fully entitled to express it without facing any kind of judgement or retaliation from you or any one else.

As Bill Durodie of the Conversation puts it across,

“Freedom of expression is absolute or it is nothing at all. It cannot be parcelled out so that we are only free at particular times or in specific circumstances. That’s how it becomes a privilege rather than a right. That’s how the self-appointed guardians get to decide what is and isn’t acceptable. Unpalatable as it may be on occasion, we all have the responsibility to engage robustly with those we dislike, or even despise.”

And it is vowed to be back next week, publishing in full force, and taking the magazine to over 1 million copies.

It’s quite simple really: the more freedom of expression is attacked, the more it is required. And today, we stand in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo in supporting free speech.

Featured image courtesy: Raj Kumar (@chiya9) | Twitter


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When he isn’t wasting his time reading about pop-culture, Chris goes about his day practicing pop-culture and finding fault with most of the world. As Associate Editor at The Alternative, Chris copy edits, packages content for web, and keeps night finding newer ways to get audiences to discover and engage with The Alternative. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When he isn’t wasting his time reading about pop-culture, Chris goes about his day practicing pop-culture and finding fault with most of the world. As Associate Editor at The Alternative, Chris copy edits, packages content for web, and keeps night finding newer ways to get audiences to discover and engage with The Alternative. more

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  • Sensible

    There is a thin line between freedom of speech and provocative insult. The cartoon that is being discussed portraying the most revered personality in naked cartoon. How many of us would be comfortably giving a smile when the world around us make a mockery of our dear ones like wife, sister, mother, father, religious personalities or even gods & goddesses portrayed naked. It may be a entertainment and amusement for some but should it be at the cost millions. Even if some are fine to experience such situations can the argument be extended universally?

    The act of killing the charlie hebdo is highly condemnable. It is no sense to get into competition to resort to same acts that become reason for the situation.