Freedom of the press is at the very core of our definition of democracy. It’s a central source of pride for western nations. The right to write, draw, and express ourselves via media is a carefully protected and highly-held ideal. It is after all, a processing mechanism. A way to deal with the events that go on in a world that can feel beyond our control but to analyze its events and do our best to understand why things happen, or how to create the results a certain individual or publications believes to be the best option. Naturally, opinions of any sort create tension. But it’s a tension we’ve chosen to live with. The right to disagree, peacefully, is essential.
In 2012, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo courted controversy around the same topics that provoked this morning’s shooting, one that resulted in 12 deaths. At the time, they staunchly held their ground regarding the content. The New Yorker wrote:
“Charbonnier, Charlie Hebdo’s editor, sounds exactly sensible and intelligent when he says that the cartoons will only “shock those who will want to be shocked.” He also told Le Monde, “I don’t feel as though I’m killing someone with a pen. I’m not putting lives at risk. When activists need a pretext to justify their violence, they always find it.”
It is now being reported that the editor Charbonnier, or Charb, one of France’s most revered cartoonists, was among those killed this morning.
President Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron, and more have released statements expressing their solidarity with France at this moment, while on a more public level, social media has embraced a “Je Suis Charlie” hashtag.
To quote from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s statement,
“This horrible act is not only an attack on the lives of French citizens and the domestic security of France. It also stands as an attack on the freedom of expression and the press, a core element of our free, democratic culture that can in no way be justified.”
As writers and reporters, we are horrified by these attacks on democratic expression and stand in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. Our deepest sympathies to the families of those lost and best wishes to our friends in France today.