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article imageOp-Ed: West must not compromise on free speech after Paris shooting

By Calvin Wolf     Jan 7, 2015 in Politics
Paris - A horrific terrorist attack has occurred in Paris. Twelve innocent people were slain by black-clad gunmen at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in what appears to be a highly-organized assault. Will free speech stand strong?
In the most horrific terrorist attack in the West in years, 12 people have been murdered by black-clad gunmen at the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, reports CNN. The attack is reported as being highly organized and the shooters, who appear to be Islamic extremists, remain at large. Charlie Hebdo has previously been the target of Muslim ire due to its provocative mentions and depictions of the prophet Mohammed.
Western leaders are pledging their support for France in the wake of this devastating terrorist attack...but a dilemma is arising, particularly among the news media regarding how to report on the tragedy. According to BuzzFeed, some media outlets are censoring their reporting on Charlie Hebdo's provocative depictions of the prophet Mohammed, pixelating the images rather than showing the actual images used by the magazine. While it is understandable that journalists are concerned about inciting extremists at such a tense time, does censoring coverage of Charlie Hebdo's past provocations give the terrorists a victory?
With media outlets concerned about attacks similar to those on Charlie Hebdo, will the West stand firm in defending its free speech values? Some critics, like Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine, argue that the West has gone soft on defending freedom of expression from the ire of Muslim extremists.
Similarly, on the heels of the devastating Sony hack, which the FBI is blaming on the oft-offended regime controlling North Korea, some Hollywood studios are pulling planned movies about the antagonistic "hermit kingdom." Nobody wants angry North Korea to hack their servers and release private, and possibly unsettling, information online.
Will Islamic extremists and North Korea force Western media to stick to innocuous, inoffensive content out of fear? Will Western governments step up to defend the rights of its media affiliates to exercise their free speech rights? Many pundits, including James Poniewozik of TIME, argue that we must stand firm. I heartily concur.
Now is the time for governments to publicly assert that they will stand with their people and their media companies to protect and defend free speech rights, offering physical and cyber security assistance to firms who request it. Governments must assert that law-abiding citizens and firms within their borders will never be expected to temper their expression to appease radicals. If we fail to defend our freedom of expression, we will lose it forever under the auspices of "not offending" others.
I may not watch your stupid movie and I may roll my eyes at your cartoon mocking religious figures, but I will stand with you when radicals and terrorists try to intimidate you.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about Charlie Hebdo, Terrorism, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, French freedom of expression
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