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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Charlie Hebdo attack a testament to importance of free press

“Je Suis Charlie.”

This slogan, along with millions of pens hoisted in the air at Paris’s Place de la République, became a powerful show of solidarity, unity and defiance against one of the most serious acts of Islamic extremism since the Sept. 11 attacks.

On Jan. 7, two Islamist gunmen attacked the Paris headquarters of the weekly satirical newspaper “Charlie Hebdo.” The assassins, who apparently believed they were avenging the Prophet Muhammad, killed 12 and wounded 11 in response to the newspaper’s caricature of their leader.

The devastating attack raised global discussion over the importance of freedom of press and the way society responds to its manifestations. While respect for religious beliefs is obviously important, freedom of speech is a crucial pillar of democracy that should never be compromised, even in light of such irrationally violent events.

French President François Hollande called the attack an assault on “the expression of freedom” that is the “spirit of the republic.”

For cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, freedom of the press means nothing without the right to offend. Newspapers are, after all, vehicles of free expression; they are public forums for information and ideas that facilitate active discussion and debate. Good journalism propagates healthy criticism, flow of ideas and an unrestrained voice, all of which characterize democracy.

In France, a birthplace of the liberal democratic revolution, satire serves a special role. It is the ultimate method by which reason addresses power, and with the use of merely a pen, authoritarian figures can be brought back down to earth.

It is important to note that cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo hardly singled out the Islam faith. Jews, Christians, and politicians of all stripes have been targets of their brutal form of criticism. But journalists should not refrain from expressing their personal truth as they see it, even when it has the power to offend a group of people. No matter the content, a violent response such as the one on Charlie Hebdo is never justified.

And while the terrorists may have found the depiction of their leader offensive, the massacre can hardly be justified under the umbrella of religion. People  all over the world joined the “Je Suis Charlie” movement, condemning the assassins’ actions and reminding us that all Muslims cannot and should not be characterized by a tragic act of misinformed terrorism.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo was a completely inappropriate response to an honest incarnation of freedom of press that should prompt newspapers to fiercely safeguard their rights.

Meanwhile, “Nous sommes Charlie” ― We are Charlie.

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