Paul Vale, The Huffington Post (15.01.07)

What is freedom of speech?

After the shooting at Charlie Hebdo yesterday, we can ask the question. I live with people who come from various countries, and I learnt to appreciate how free France is. I can criticize the government without fearing the police. I can disagree with officials without facing prison. There are many opinions, many debates, and many disagreements. This is part of our lives.

I remember talking with a Singaporean friend who told me that in her country, there was freedom of speech but a restricted one. In clear, the government doesn’t like you saying that he does crap. Newspapers are under surveillance, opposition parties are in the shadow. Can you even call that “opposition”; I am not sure about that. The government is so good that my friend is convinced that no opposition party would be able to do a good job if it was to be elected. There is no political alternative, and she doesn’t really think it’s a problem.

Charlie Hebdo has a clear line: it’s a satirical newspaper. How many companies, CEOs, politicians have suffered because of it? Read only by 60 000 to 70 000 people per number (weekly), it’s a very left-wing newspaper. Even though some of their articles are “too much”, I believe that they offer an interesting point of view on our society, from a different angle. They are also famous for their illustrations, which always make me laugh a lot. But the problem was those illustrations. In 2006, they decided to publish the 12 satirical drawings published in Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper. Soon after the publication, they received death threats and some of them had to be accompanied by policemen. After so many years, we did not think about this episode anymore.

So, back to the question, how much can a journalist write? How much can a newspaper publish? Where is the limit? After all, when I read racist articles, it makes me mad too. So is it ok for me to say yes to articles which could hurt other people, but to not accept what would go against my beliefs? Mh, this sounds wrong. But at the same time, I don’t feel like putting a bullet in the head of the journalist who wrote a racist article. The level is not the same.

Religious matters are always really difficult to deal with. I have no idea what a “right balance” would be between freedom of speech and respect. To which point is it simple sarcasm, to which point does it become racism or intolerance? The limit is so thin, almost invisible. With my friends, we tend to joke a lot about religion. It is certainly because my friends are from different religions but are really open minded. There is no conflict between them, even though their beliefs would never be compatible. We often joke about Muslim people or about Jews stereotypes, without anyone being hurt or annoyed. But that cannot be done with anyone.

I wonder how those journalists and illustrators were living. Were they afraid of something happening to them? Or were they simply ready to face the possible consequences, in the name of their freedom of speech? Still, I believe that briefly saying “France is the land of Voltaire, but too often editorial foolishness has prevailed at Charlie Hebdo” is not acceptable. I am sure they took their responsibilities when publishing what they had. I can’t believe that someone would write this just after 12 people were killed. Makes no sense.

I just want to thank those journalists and illustrators for doing what they had for so many years. Even though it is difficult to define what is wrong from what is right in these kinds of situations, I believe that we should remember their commitment.

Coz We All Are Charlie.


Listening to: Team B – Climax


One thought on “#018

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s