“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”                 

George Orwell, Animal Farm

The term ‘Je suis Charlie’ has been plastered all over the news this week in reaction to the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which resulted in the death of 12 people, including the editor and celebrated cartoonists.  The massacre was carried out by two extreme Islamists in response the magazine mocking the prophet Muhammad. This is not the first time the magazine office has been attacked; in 2011 the office was firebombed after naming the prophet Muhammad its guest editor.

It is crucial to any democratic society that there is freedom to express individual opinions and beliefs. Whether it is reporting trivial topics, or a matter that is of importance, journalism as a form of media needs to advocate freedom of speech. Therefore it is a travesty that such an attack, with such serious repercussions, has taken place in response to the image Charlie Hebdo published.

Yes, the image may have caused offence but the agenda of a satirical magazine is to provoke controversy and mock topical issues. This has been true of satirical magazines since their inception in the early nineteenth century. They have played a key role in our society in representing an alternative viewpoint to the public. Islam has not been the only religion to be mocked by such a magazine, all religions and people from politics and business have been ridiculed.

However, just as we must ensure all religious communities can follow their religions free from threats of discrimination and violence, people who have no religious faith must also be free to voice their values free from similar discrimination and violence.

Now more than ever we need to unite and assert freedom of speech.  Silence is no option.


Eleanor Woulfe 


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