Free­dom’s costly price

The Compass - - OPINION -

De­pend­ing on the his­tor­i­cal clar­ity of hind­sight, Wed­nes­day was ei­ther another bad day for jour­nal­ism — and world peace in gen­eral — or a day the world re­al­ized how im­por­tant the me­dia is in a free and demo­cratic so­ci­ety.

Charlie Hebdo is a wacky, weird weekly news­pa­per in France with a se­ri­ous left-wing satir­i­cal bent. Its de­trac­tors, many of them peo­ple in po­si­tions of power, find it dis­taste­ful.

The pa­per is cer­tainly not main­stream in terms of any­thing peo­ple here would call a nor­mal me­dia out­let. As far as that goes, few out­side of France would have known any­thing about it prior to Wed­nes­day’s mass killings in Paris.

So it’s ironic that a news­pa­per that was hard to love in the best of times, that was con­tro­ver­sial and of­ten very dis­re­spect­ful, has come to rep­re­sent free­dom of the press and free speech. And, more im­por­tantly, Wed­nes­day’s slaugh­ter has re­minded us of the need to fight to pre­serve free speech.

We at TC Me­dia join in sol­i­dar­ity with our jour­nal­ism peers around the world, in re­mind­ing read­ers that our own free­dom of thought and ex­pres­sion has al­ways come with a high price — of­ten paid by peo­ple far away from us.

If Charlie Hebdo had a sis­ter pa­per in Canada, it’s doubt­ful the pa­per would be a run­away suc­cess. Oh, the news­pa­per cer­tainly could be funny, but it was crude and its credo was that no sub­ject, or in­di­vid­ual, was off lim­its, in­clud­ing the Pope and the Prophet Mo­hammed.

It took the old news­pa­per slo­gan of “af­flict the com­fort­able and com­fort the af­flicted” to a whole other level.

The pa­per’s brazen will­ing­ness to poke the bear of Mus­lim fa­nat­ics, by sat­i­riz­ing about the Prophet Mo­hammed and print­ing images of him, ap­pears to be the rea­son two vi­o­lent and de­mented young men rushed into the news­pa­per’s of­fice and wreaked their re­venge. All the while they were en­gaged in such un­holy work, they were chant­ing in praise of their god. It’s doubt­ful any god was on their side.

The blood­let­ting has left us all with another flesh wound to our sense of ci­vil­ity and sen­si­bil­ity. Un­for­tu­nately, we are be­com­ing numb and harder to sur­prise when it comes to such out­ra­geous acts. The names of too many gods are be­ing shouted out by in­di­vid­u­als with their fin­gers on a trig­ger.

Those peo­ple who ar­gue that Charlie Hebdo was play­ing with fire and ask­ing for trou­ble need to take off their Pam­pers and put on their grown-up pants. Any­one who be­lieves in free­dom of speech must ac­cept the fact that the free­dom ex­tends to ev­ery­one, not just to the peo­ple we think de­serve the right to ex­press an opin­ion. Peo­ple can cross lines when it comes to free speech, but we have the courts to pro­tect us in those cases.

It would be a mi­nor­ity of Cana­di­ans who agree with many of Charlie Hebdo’s ed­i­to­rial de­ci­sions. But, cer­tainly the vast majority of Cana­di­ans would support the news­pa­per’s right to ex­ist.

This week’s edi­tion of Charlie Hebdo has been re­duced to eight pages in­stead of the usual 16, but the print run will be one mil­lion copies, not the usual run of 60,000 copies.

Charlie Hebdo and its staff paid a heavy price, of­fer­ing up that which is most pre­cious to us, our blood, for their belief in free­dom of speech.

Eight staff mem­bers, along with four other in­di­vid­u­als, have earned the right to be sym­bols of free speech. May they rest in peace and the free­dom train that is the right to free speech keep on rolling.

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