In a 2012 TV interview Stéphane Charbonnier, the Editor in Chief of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, had this to say about his work: “our job is not to defend freedom of speech; but without [it], we are dead. I prefer to die than live like a rat.”
Two years later, twelve people–including Charbonnier–are dead after the magazine was allegedly attacked by Islamic extremists Wednesday morning in Paris, France.
Extremists taking issue with their satirization through the pen is nothing new. In fact, in 2007 the paper–which regularly lambasts religions of all stripes–found itself in court for allegedly inciting hatred against Muslims after publishing a Dutch cartoon of Mohammad in a bomb-headdress. In 2011, its editorial board took to Mohammad yet again, this time allowing him to “guest edit” an edition of the paper, and warn readers that if they didn’t laugh, they would receive “a hundred lashes”. Its offices were later firebombed.
Nevertheless, the satirical journal forged on with its mission, and it would be entirely wrong to say that the events that transpired today were a natural consequence of that decision. A fearful, self-censoring or silenced press is not a free–or even remotely useful–one.
At a time when journalists around the world are being subject to extreme violence and newspapers are putting the nail in the coffin to the very idea of career journalism, the events that transpired Wednesday morning have prompted an impassioned response on behalf of journalists, newspapers and cartoonists around the world, and remind us of the fight they still, and always will, have in them.
Check out an interview with the late Charlie Hebdo editor-in-chief below: