Freedom of the press: Stronger than ever

By Maddi Anderson Editor-in-Chief


Anyone with access to social media, any news outlet or the Internet in general has seen the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie blowing up in the last week.

On Jan. 7 a terrorist attack on the satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, killed 12 people. Two Muslim extremists attacked the newspaper known for publishing cartoons and content that references the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

While many considered the content controversial and offensive, the tragic attack that left 12 journalists dead felt to the media and journalistic world to be an attack on freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

In response to the attack, the publication decided, not only to print this week, but to increase from their usual circulation of 60,000 to 3 million copies. If this isn’t impressive in light of this tragedy, I’m not sure what is.

The cover for the issue was released early this week, showing an image of the prophet Mohammed crying, holding a sign that says “#JeSuisCharlie” which translates to #IAmCharlie. Above the prophet, in French it states “Tout Est Pardonne” or “All is Forgiven.”

In a statement at a press conference and an interview with Liberation’s Isabelle Hanne, Renald Luzier, cartoonist of the cover said, “With this cover, we wanted to show that at any given moment, we have the right to do anything, to redo anything, and to use our characters the way we want to. Mohammed has become a character, in spite of himself, a character in the news, because there are people who speak on his behalf. This is a cover aimed at intelligent people, who are much more numerous than you think, whether they’re atheists, Catholics, Muslims …”

As a journalist, you take on the responsibility to report the truth. You take on the responsibility to report with objectivity, whether or not everyone agrees. In fact, chances are, you will never write something that will please everyone.

Journalists have to make the decision to either fall under the pressures of censorship or to stand up and take the risk and write the truth anyway.

If you are a journalist, no matter what the scale, whether you are a student journalist at a university in South Dakota or working for a popular French satirical newspaper, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are basic rights and should not come with the threat of death simply for words put into print.

Were some of the cartoons, images and content published in Charlie Hebdo offensive? To many, yes. Does it mean that they don’t have the right to express themselves and have the freedom to share their views? No.

The newspaper published the content they did in humor, to entertain the French public. They, along with the rest of the media and journalists in the world, shouldn’t have to live in fear of these kinds of attacks.

The response from world leaders to this tragedy speaks to this.

More than 40 world leaders and around 3.7 million people across France participated in a National Unity March on Jan. 11, making it the largest demonstration in the nation’s history, according to a story published Jan. 11 by the Associated Press.

If you ask me, this outpouring of support completely smothers the goals of the extremists who tried to use violence to make a point.

The attempt to silence these journalists stating their beliefs through cartoons, seemed to have backfired, as journalists, media outlets and world leaders came out in tenfold, stronger than ever, proving that freedom of the press will not be relinquished.


Maddi is majoring in English education. She can be reached at [email protected].