Je Suis: Protecting our Freedom of Speech


(Franck Dubray/Zuma Press/TNS)

Noah Brown, Managing Editor

Twelve. Twelve families are now incomplete, following the Jan. 7 terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, the satiric French newspaper. Extremist terrorist group Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack. Charlie Hebdo is one of many satiric newspapers in the world. Yet, the Paris-based newspaper has been the recipient of multiple terrorist attacks in recent years.

The freedoms of speech, expression and the press are cornerstones of our democratic society, and these freedoms should be recognized by everyone. People should feel confident in their ability to share their ideas, satiric or not, and be assured that they will not be held to the severe repercussions of a group’s response to them.

Extremism should not weaken the rights of people in this world. We can not let these groups severely alter our way of life. If we make restrictions on what we can do, we have inevitably let terrorism win. We have let terrorists achieve their goals and we have lost the fight. We can not let that happen.

We do not need to restrict the freedoms that we have been granted for hundreds of years. We need to identify the real problem. The real problem is the people in our society that feel the need to cause havoc, to destroy human life and human civilization. A controversial cartoon in a newspaper should not result in a dozen casualties; it should not even result in one.

The ideal society is one where people have the right and are free to share their opinions and to live their own unique lifestyles. And, the simple reality is, we do not live in such a society to this day. On the contrary, today, we live in a society where practically everything we say or do is monitored and even spied upon by national and international officials. Facebook posts and tweets have been brought up in Court. The North Korean government recently threatened “merciless” action against the United States if the comedy film “The Interview” was released.

And, the thing is that these heinous actions in response to people exercising their own rights and freedoms could so easily be avoided. Al-Qaeda terrorists did not have to read the Charlie Hebdo newspaper. The North Korean government, likewise, did not have to watch “The Interview”.  If we do not act up against these groups, these things will keep happening. If we silence ourselves, we will lose.

The powerful hashtag #JeSuisCharlie has been trending on social media since the day of the attack. The hashtag is just one of the many acts of solidarity the world has shown towards Charlie Hebdo. Many global leaders have also linked arms to show support of free speech. Showing solidarity and support is just the start. There is much more that needs to be done. So far, we have, for the most part, done the right things. We have released, although limitedly, “The Interview.” And, Charlie Hebdo has continued to write and publish their newspaper. The satiric newspaper’s top editor Stephane Charbonnier said it best, “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”