SEVERAL PUBLISHERS in Western countries have disgraced themselves in recent years with self-censorship to avoid being targeted by Islamic militants. The French newspaper Charlie Hebdo did the opposite: Even after its offices were firebombed in 2011, and even after its editor was put on an al-Qaeda wanted list, it continued to courageously publish cartoons and articles lampooning Islam — as well as Christianity, Judaism and established religion in general.
Consequently, the heinous attack it suffered Wednesday — when gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar” invaded its Paris offices and slaughtered 12 people, including editor Stéphane Charbonnier and the police officers defending him — is a direct challenge to the West’s commitment to free expression. The reaction must be not only one of protest and determination to apprehend the perpetrators. Media in democratic nations must also consciously commit themselves to rejecting intimidation by Islamic extremists or any other movement that seeks to stifle free speech through violence.
That was the course Charlie Hebdo followed in 2006, after the publication of anti-Muslim cartoons by a Danish newspaper led to death threats against that paper’s editors and violent protests outside Danish embassies in Muslim countries. The French newspaper reacted by republishing the cartoons. Read the rest of this entry »