Freedom of expression will not be muzzled

A tribute to Charlie Hebdo, Tunis. ©Mariem Dali

                                      A tribute to Charlie Hebdo, Tunis. ©Mariem Dali

Wednesday, January 7th 2015. A baleful day for freedom of expression. This morning, Charlie Hebdo was beheaded.

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Universal Declaration for Human Rights, 1948.

Half a century later, freedom of expression still lives under constant threat and daily limitations. 720 journalists killed in the world since 2005. 66 journalists killed in 2014, 178 detained, 119 abducted.[1] 12 persons fell today. All in the name of one ideal, a right, a liberty: expression.

When will cease this massacre? When will ignorance cease to break feathers? Because this is what it is about: ignorance. The ones who never felt the power of words between their hands and on their tongue are frightened by it and rebel with the tip of their Kalashnikovs. Sad fools.

This morning, around 11:20, two men wearing a balaclava penetrate Charlie Hebdo’s offices in the 11th district of Paris. Each holds a Kalashnikov when they get to the 10, Nicolas-Appert Street. When entering the building they ask their way to the offices of the weekly satirical journal to two service agents, they shoot one of them. Frédéric Boisseaux, 42, is the first victim.

They reach the second floor and erupt in the newsroom where the editors’ conference was taking place. The whole team was there. They open fire, the massacre begins. Cartoonists Cabu, Charb, Wollinsky, Tignous; the police officer in charge of their security, Franck Brinsolaro; the economist Bernard Maris; journalists Honoré, Mustapha Ourad; a guest of the editors’, Michel Renaud; a second police officer in charge of their security, Ahmed Merabet; Elsa Cayat, columnist and psychoanalyst.
In total, 12 persons fell. 12 libertarians. 12 symbols of freedom of expression and its protection.

The criminals ran away after cowardly shooting at close range police officer Ahmed Merabet at close range, while he was on the ground in the street. They yelled ‘we avenged Prophet Mohamed, we killed Charlie Hebdo’.

Great men fell today. Yes, they were controversial. Yes, they flirted with the limits of freedom of expression at each publication. And this is where there greatness resided. Great libertarians. Men that fought daily to push back censorship and made sure it never took one more step. Free expression, and always at the limits of legality.

Tight rope walkers of the pen, whom each drawing thrilled us with anguish at the thought of falling into the forbidden. Thank you for the thrills; it is thanks to them that we know freedom of expression is very much alive. It is not frozen, it frees itself each day from the lead that is riddled in its wings.

Tunisia is also moved by this tragedy. Tunisia still echoes her own tragedies that know freedom of expression. The current situation of bloggers and journalists prosecuted for criticizing, for talking, for expressing. Tunisia will never forget all those pens broken in the cells of the old regime. Nor the ones that resist today. Tunisia can claim out loud “we are Charlie Hebdo”, for we have suffered and we still suffer from censorship and its violence. Let us never forget that the return of Charlie Hebdo in the Tunisian newsstands marked the return of freedom in Tunisia.

It is in the name of this freedom that twelve souls fell this day. It is in the name of this freedom that men and women around the world give their lives every day. It is in the name of this freedom that we all have a duty. Talk. Talk. Talk loud and clear! and never be quiet again.

Charlie Hebdo, like a phoenix reveals itself through the pen of hundreds of journalists and expresses itself through the pencil of hundreds of cartoonists around the world.

Charlie Hebdo is dead, long live Charlie Hebdo.

[1] Reporters Without Borders, 2014 Round-up of abuses against journalists

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