I have decided to break off from cricket for the first time in my 2015 blog challenge, to offer my thoughts on the atrocity at Charlie Hebdo yesterday.
I do not proclaim to be an expert on politics, satire, or religion, but what I do consider myself to be, is a writer. More than that, I am predominantly a writer of opinion. While it is only sport that I discuss, something which can seem trivial at a time like this, it is the essence of free speech that needs to be fought for.
The vast majority of my posts are opinion based, and I take it for granted, that in a free democracy, I have pretty much free reign in what I am allowed to say. It is a right that we all have here in the UK and in most countries around the world.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo yesterday was not just a barbaric attack on innocent people in Paris, it was an attack on all of us who hold the right to free speech in the highest regard.
The cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were doing nothing more than expressing an opinion. They were not causing harm to anyone and they certainly did not advocate violence. The people who carried this attack out, cannot claim that because they were offended their actions should be looked upon as just. I strongly believe in people’s rights to express their opinion, but I also strongly believe in other people’s rights to find that opinion ridiculous. What I don’t believe in is violence or acts of terrorism.
Freedom of speech and thought is the very bedrock of our democratic society. If we begin to impose serious restrictions on free speech then we are saying that one person’s view deserves to be heard more than another’s. In a free society, we must work hard to preserve our right to freedom of expression, be it via writing, debating, satire or any other form.
The response from around the world has been swift and united. We will not stand for such a threat to our democracy and freedom. Obviously politicians moved to condemn the attacks, but it was the actions of fellow cartoonists and those in the media that struck a cord with many around the globe.
The front page of the Independent in the UK and the front page of B.Z in Germany were perhaps the most striking.
This cover from the Independent today, is brave and in the spirit that Charlie Hebdo has emboldened over the past 20 years.
B.Z also ran a superb tribute. Filling their covers, both front and back, with images of Charlie Hebdo’s front page from over the years.
This is how the world must respond. Not with fear or aggression, but by using the values we have worked so hard to gain. Freedom of speech has taken a severe blow this week, but it’s fighting back already.