Charlie Hebdo and the attack on Press Freedom

charlie hebedo

Yesterday on the 7th of January the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a French language satirical newspaper known for its left leaning politics and religious scepticism was attacked by two gunman this morning at approximately 11:30 CET. The attackers killed twelve people comprising of ten members of Charlie Hebdo staff and two police officers whilst eleven others have been wounded.

This is the biggest terrorist incident to have affected France in forty years and it has understandably had an impact on many of its citizens. Today major cities across the country gather for candlelit vigils in remembrance and solidarity for those who lost their lives today with Paris, Lyon, Nantes and Montpellier attracting large crowds. London too was also host to a vigil as two thousand French tourists and expats gathered in Trafalgar Sqaure.

Many of the people attending vigils have created placards with messages in response to the attackers. Placards with the words “Press Freedom is priceless and fundamentalism of any kind will not pass” and “Not Afraid” appearing at the Paris vigil. French President Francois Hollande has said that a minutes silence will be held tomorrow at mid-day and has decreed that tomorrow will be a day national mourning

From the digital perspective footage has been posted of the two masked attackers shooting a police officer in the street during the attack with most press outlets choosing to edit the footage. On Social Media #JeSuisCharlie has become a globally trended topic on Twitter as people exchange messages and photos with many photos taken directly from the candlelit vigils whilst some users as a tribute to the cartoonists of the publication draw their own images with a common theme of the pen being mightier and more powerful than any weapon.

Expression is one of the few things in life that costs nothing. Sometimes free speech is used by the most vitriolic of people who use words as weapon, as a means to insult, entrap, victimise and demean others. But free speech is a double edged sword. It allows us to talk back, criticise, protest and hold those in power or those who put on themselves on a platform to account for their words and actions.

Free speech. It may not always be pretty, but it will forever remain something worth fighting for, but it is incredibly sad to see people die for its cause. ?#?JeSuisCharlie

Daniel Colley