Last week’s cowardly attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the ensuing drama are a painful reminder that freedom of speech often carries a heavy price.
It’s not the first time that Islamist extremists have targeted their critics — who fight with pens and paper and video — with deadly violence. And it certainly won’t be the last.
The sheer horror of the attack should resonate with journalists everywhere. When journalists become the target of attack, the intent is to silence critics. It’s more important than ever that journalists give voice to those standing up to this heinous behavior. The reaction — at least from Europeans — has been reassuring and overwhelmingly affirming. An estimated one million people marched peacefully in Paris over the weekend. Among them were world leaders, including Angela Merkel of Germany and Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. But conspicuously missing from the march was any senior member of the Obama administration. It was a mindboggling mistake for the United States to be absent from such a high-profile show of support for our oldest ally.
And America’s mainstream media aren’t faring much better. The Washington Post, New York Times and Associated Press have declined to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that helped inspire the attack. Those same outlets have gone into great detail describing the cartoons, so why not publish them?
“None of the images distributed by AP showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad,” an AP spokesperson said. “It’s been our policy for years that we refrain from moving deliberately provocative images.”
This sudden hyper-sensitivity to Muslim sensibilities is hypocritical at best. From images of Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” to photos of Westboro Baptist Church’s virulently anti-LGBT protests, the AP has never shown such restraint before. The blackout on these cartoon images extends to broadcast and cable TV, with all major networks refusing to show them. Mainstream media outlets are infantilizing American audiences with this misguided policy rooted in fear. The entire world is talking about these images. It’s the story. So show them!
In 2011, Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon on its cover that featured Stephane Charbonnier kissing a man dressed in traditional Muslim clothing under the headline ‘Love is stronger than hate.’ Charbonnier was the magazine’s editor and was killed in the attack last week. We republish that image here in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo and those who died.