Defense of free speech: Terror in Paris sparks conversation

Last semester, we The Threefold mentioned the importance of free speech, which appeared in an editorial about the anonymous smartphone app Yik Yak. Due to recent discussions and the tragedy that has taken place in Paris, we want to further discuss this issue.

You have probably heard about the terror attacks in Paris at the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Two gunmen, Al-Qaeda terrorists, killed 12 people and injured 11 others at the magazine office. The attacks occurred after Charlie Hebdo’s extremely controversial depictions of Muhammad in their publication. The magazine has been in trouble over this in the past; in 2011, the offices were firebombed after their depiction of Muhammad, which is forbidden in Islam.

The attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices, as well as the subsequent terror attacks in Paris, are despicable and have been rightly condemned throughout the media. While we can understand the anger over the satirical depictions of Islam’s most revered figure— imagine if Jesus were mocked in such a crass manner—there is still the basic right to freedom of speech, at least in the United States.

As journalists, we The Threefold will continue to defend the freedom of speech. “But isn’t satire some form of libel?” you may ask. There are specific guidelines that journalists must follow when using satire so that they do not get into legal trouble. While satire is used to ridicule political figures, often harshly and sometimes inappropriately, it is not legally wrong as long as it does not state false facts.

While their negative depictions of Muhammad are extremely harsh and we The Threefold do not support the actual content of their cartoons, Charlie Hebdo is not in the wrong. It is clear from the massive outflowing of support for the Parisian magazine that the attacks were wrong. However, we have also seen from the rallies and online support that there is nothing that brings people together more than tragedy.

People from all over the world have come together in support of free speech and to condemn those who murdered the magazine staff and French police. The phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword” takes on new meaning in instances like this.

Despite the bloodshed and violence that have occurred, people have rallied together in support of something that must be protected at all costs. We all have the right to free speech, and its importance cannot be overstated. When it comes to freedoms like this, the rallying cry of “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) rings true.