News of the January 7 massacre that resulted in the death of 12 journalists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France rocked the world. Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Dr. King, though he may not have approved of blasphemous satire, would have undoubtedly fought hard to defend the right to produce such sacrilegious content. King and the Hebdo journalists gave their lives to uphold the principle of free speech.
Journalism is not a safe occupation. While seeking to uncover the truth journalists often fall into the line of fire. Suppression of information and an informed public is a centuries old practice of repressive regimes and deceptive leaders. Targeting those armed only with a notepad is cowardly, but is a modern testament to the age-old claim that the pen is in fact mightier than the sword. Journalists, despite their protected status as civilian non-combatants under the Geneva Conventions, die.
It is the responsibility of those who believe in free speech, expression, and information, to support Charlie Hebdo‘s right to publish satirical cartoons. The recent decisions by many major news outlets not to re-publish the Hebdo cartoon is pusillanimous and not collegial. The world’s most respected media groups should not only stand in solidarity with Hebdo, but also demonstrate that violent extremists cannot win their failing ideological struggle by targeting journalists. The world’s most widely circulated media can achieve this by ensuring that Charlie Hebdo‘s message reaches an audience across the globe- the very root of extremist’s fears. They can also call upon leaders within the Islamic community to denounce violent behavior as incompatible behavior for truly devout Muslims.