What happened to free speech and freedom of expression?

As everyone was just beginning to become settled with the idea that a new year had begun and it was time to write ’15’ instead of ’14’ as the date, something disturbing and unsettling happened.

The lives of 12 innocent people were taken from this earth, 8 of which were journalists.
2 masked gunmen decided to storm the building of Charlie Hebdo – a satirical french magazine known for its controversial images – in an “apparent  militant Islamist attack”.  This got me thinking, are we no longer allowed to have our own opinions without causing offence?

Personally I feel attacked because:
1. I am half french and felt the pain of the country.
2. I want to be a journalist.

Being a journalist means a few things but an important aspect of the job is that you voice an opinion and get the people talking, if people don’t agree with it then that creates a discussion. However, now it seems that this “discussion” leads to bloodshed and serious harm.

One Artists work in response to the event

My mum called me last night and told me exactly what she thought about the whole thing and you know what, she was right. She said that France is known for being a secular state and since the French Revolution, it has kind of been a tradition within french culture to produce these satirical cartoon images. She also added that she was proud to call herself french and that if people weren’t happy with what the paper produced, they didn’t have to read it (a valid point maman). When I told her I was going to write a blog post on the shooting and freedom of expression she said only one thing:
“where are you publishing this? I don’t want you to put yourself in any danger”
I had never thought about my writing being something that could result in me being in danger but now it seems that you can’t write anything without the fear of causing offence to someone or putting your own life at risk.

If, journalists are to be censored in a democratic society, how are we supposed to hold the government to account and what happens to the fourth estate?
Journalists are now, more than ever, putting their lives at risk for their job. Let’s just remind ourselves about what happened last year… Journalists along with innocent aid workers were beheaded by Isis members in order to help Isis make a political statement.
What statement did they make?
They just helped to create a society of hate and islamophobia which, could result in a huge increase in votes for the extreme right political parties worldwide.

All you are doing is pushing yourselves further away from the West.

We live in a democratic society which prides itself upon allowing people to be free to express their opinions and say what they like but now it seems like we can no longer do this. Freedom of expression is part of the European Convention on Human Rights and states that:
“everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interferences by public authority” What is going to happen now? Are we going to have to change the rights we are allowed as humans or are journalists going to have to be censored when they decide to write something that may cause offence. And what do we define as something offensive? 

Not only was this a vile act on innocent people but it sent a message worldwide : You can no longer express your opinions freely unless you want to run the risk of being killed.

I now want to make a point and apologise to those on the other end of the argument:
To those Muslims who now feel as though they are going to be hated for what a minority have decided to do, I am sorry and apologise upon the behalf of every other human on this earth. It is not your fault and you do not need to fear, those that know you won’t treat you differently and those that don’t, let them think what they like.

One of Charlie Hebdo’s front pages

Alice x 


2 thoughts on “What happened to free speech and freedom of expression?

  1. Thank you Alice for your thoughts.
    Et devenir journaliste est un très beau rêve.
    Don’t give up on it!
    Vive Charlie Hebdo!

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