I very rarely delve into heavy subjects in this column, but the international news this week—a direct assault on freedom of expression and freedom of the press—was too personal and too important not to address. The craven, tragic terrorist attack on the Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is an assault on very basic rights, ones that we consider inalienable in the United States. As someone who has spent all of my adult life immersed in media and journalism, I consider freedom of speech and freedom of the press to be the very foundation of democracy and our way of life.
As I’m writing this, it’s being reported that French commandos have killed the terrorists in raids on a kosher grocery and publishing house where they were holed up, keeping hostages at gunpoint. The raids end a nightmare for the people of Paris but, unfortunately, created martyrs for other violent zealots to emulate. This threat isn’t going away, but we have to take inspiration from the real martyrs of the Paris siege—the journalists, police officers, and hostages who were killed by these cowardly, murderous thugs. Those killed were martyrs for freedom of speech, expression, and liberty itself. It’s heartening to see the international community rallying to the cause of freedom rather than cowering in fear in the face of shadowy militants willing to attack unarmed cartoonists as they sit at their desks.
The surviving staff of Charlie Hebdo is planning on printing their next edition on schedule, but instead of their usual 60,000 copies, they are upping their print run to a million editions. That’s true bravery that should motivate us all not to shy from offending or being provocative. Ideas and concepts are tempered by debate, discussion, satire, and humor. The enemy knows the power of a free press, which is why oppressors around the world regularly target journalists—61 were killed in 2014 alone. We are lucky enough to live in a country where we, generally, don’t have to fear for our lives. But I think I speak for all of us, even at your community papers, when I say, “Je suis Charlie.”