Charlie Hebdo Attack Terrorized Free Speech

Charlie Hebdo Demonstrations Across France
Patrick Delecroix / TNS
Patrick Delecroix / TNS

By Jose Servin

The shooting attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last month was not an abuse of the freedom of speech, but a brutal attack on it.

That is not to say that there was some villain in a secret lair plotting on destroying free speech as if it were Gotham City. Rather, it was an act of terror carried out by a radical group intended on sending a chilling message to Western media.

Those who argue that Charlie Hebdo should have refrained from publishing the cartoons deemed offensive by the shooters are agreeing to censorship.

The rallying cry of “Je Suis Charlie (“I am Charlie”) that emerged after the attack and its popularity among U.S. Twitter users also illuminated issues concerning free speech here at home.

In Carson for example, the city council proposed to boycott the local newspaper The Daily Breeze because of disagreements with how the city was being portrayed. The Santa Monica News-Press also received criticism for its use of the phrase “illegal immigrant,” deemed derogatory by some immigrant-rights groups.

As information becomes more accessible, publishers are faced with the decision of adapting to a global audience and its sensitivities or preserving their right to freedom of speech and exposing themselves to retaliation from an opinionated readership.

If the aforementioned papers choosing to exercise their right to freedom of speech is any indication, then media is choosing to do the latter.

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