On Jan. 7, 2015, three armed gunmen stormed the office of the French satrical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people including the Editor in Chief, Stéphane Charbonnier, multiple cartoonists and one police officer.
While the causes of the attack were initially unknown, later reports and videos of the incident showed the three gunmen, who were later found to be members of the Al-Qaeda’s Yemen Branch, yelling “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is Great” in Arabic, while they stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo.
It was later found out that the attack was carried out in retaliation for a cartoon Charlie Hebdo published about the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.
As the dust started to settle and people started to realize what exactly happened to the newspaper, the idea of freedom of the press was once again called into question.
People all over the world started to wonder exactly how much freedom the press was allowed in terms of speaking about and depicting religion as well as mocking it. All around the world, people started to use the hashtag “#jesuischarlie” (“I am Charlie” in French) to show their support of not only the paper, but also the idea of freedom of speech.
However, one starts to wonder about the freedom of the press in regards to what it is allowed to say when the possibility of a terrorist attack is ever-looming. Is the press truly “free” if they refuse to publish an article, picture, or idea because they are afraid that putting out their material could lead to the deaths of writers, cartoonists and editors?
In addition, is the press truly free if they face violent and sometimes deadly retaliation due to publishing one single article about a subject?
While I understand that the subject in question is very touchy and is a “hot-button” issue, it cannot be said that the press, with special regards to satirical newspapers in particular, should refuse to publish any sort of material on one of said hot-button issues. If you refuse to mock one idea, than you cannot mock any ideas.
In a twisted sense, satirical publications have to follow the “South Park” rule, where basically states that you can mock everything or you mock nothing at all.
You cannot say that a satirical publication should not publish a picture of Muhammad French-kissing a writer because then you are showing some sort of favoritism to a particular idea, which goes against the whole “mock everything or nothing” rule.
So, is the press really free? Is freedom being afraid for your life for publishing a picture?
In my eyes, freedom of the press is not refusing to publish material due to the looming fear of a terrorist attack. That is not “freedom.”
Freedom is publishing what you want without being fearful of retaliation from a bunch of cowards whose pasttime is killing innocent women and children because they did not listen to their dogma.
So while not everyone is “Charlie,” the deaths of the publications’ writers, editors and cartoonists should not be in vain. People should remember them not as victims of a tragic attack, but rather as martyrs for free speech.
To those whose lives were taken, which includes not only the mainly-atheist staff of Charlie Hebdo but also the Islamic police officer who was tragically killed by gutless cravens, may you rest in peace.
Hopefully, your lives will not be in vain, and may those who committed this heinous crime be properly judged in either this life or the next.
Correction: January 29, 2015
A previous version of this article misspelled the Arabic phrase that translates to “God is Great.” The phrase is “Allahu Akbar.”