Tue | Sep 18, 2018

EDITORIAL - Drawings don't kill people

Published:Friday | January 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Wednesday's assault on a French magazine, which left 12 people dead and 11 injured, has stunned the world and prompted spontaneous global demonstrations of people defending freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

Ten of the dead were journalists working at the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, located near Paris' Bastille monument, which symbolises justice and liberty.

Thousands of demonstrators in many European cities could be seen on television yesterday with raised pens, insisting on the right to free speech as they chanted words to the effect: "Let the ink, not the blood, flow!"

Described as one of the worst terrorist attacks on French soil in recent history, the rampage is seen as an attack on freedom of expression and intellectual integrity everywhere.

Fittingly, the Press Association of Jamaica has issued a statement, showing solidarity with its colleagues by saying it was, "an attack on democracy and freedom of the press, which must be of concern to all who support these important values anywhere in the world".

Steadfastly against extremism

The 40-year-old weekly is well known for its lampooning of public figures. It was steadfastly against extremism and had, in the past, satirised the Pope and the Catholic Church, Jews, Muslims and various other important figures.

The magazine's editor, in defending enlightened scepticism of people and events, was quoted as saying, "Maybe it's a little pompous to say, but I'd rather die standing than live on my knees". Stephane Charbonnier, 47, was among those killed Wednesday as he and other staff gathered for an editorial meeting.

Charlie Hebdo's caricature of the Prophet Muhammad had earned the ire of Muslim radicals and, in 2011, its offices were firebombed and website hacked. The magazine continued to receive death threats from Islamist terrorists and were under police guard at the time of the attack.

Cartoonists, as everyone knows, can be irreverent, provocative, mocking, even unfair and offensive to some, but is that a crime for which one should pay with one's life? And who gives these radicals the right to stand in judgement of everyone? Does this mean journalists are to be silenced for fear of being hunted and slaughtered?

Words cannot kill

Charbonnier is reported to have said in 2013, "a drawing has never killed anyone". And yes, extremists don't really care that words cannot kill, they have been known to target artists and others engaged in creative expressions because they disagree with their views.

Instead of killing the spirit of these Charlie Hebdo journalists, the hooded extremists have made martyrs of them and have rallied the global media in fierce defence of freedom of the press.

These savage acts by extremists bring home the reality of global terrorism and have resulted in churning fear in people's hearts, as to where they will strike next.

Kudos to the security forces in France, as they were able to identify the suspects within 24 hours of unleashing their gross violence on the magazine staff. Already, one suspect is in custody, several friends and relatives have been detained, and they are in pursuit of two brothers suspected of being the trigger men.

The leadership of Islam needs to pull back its murderous bullies and loudly condemn this attack, for it all boils down to a right to freedom of expression, and everyone deserves to enjoy that right.