Today was a black day for France and journalism.
The cold-blooded, unexpected and unprovoked killing of cartoonists at the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and two police officers, has stunned the nation. Such a bold attack by men who spoke fluent French and are thought to be French natives has reiterated a fear in the West – how do you deal with the enemy within?
Admittedly, I appreciate the frustration satire can evoke. As a Sikh, if one of my Guru’s was mocked in satirical animation, I would be angry. But not to the extent that I would condone revenge attacks, let alone murder!
As a journalist, I am fully in support of freedom of speech. Journalism has no bounds in creativity and producing thought-provoking material. And even if you don’t agree with what is being published, nobody deserves to be killed for satire.
The motivation of the attack has been to intimidate the media and to shackle freedom of speech. Ironically, I believe it has only strengthened journalistic prowess and determination. The mass support for Charlie Hebdo the world over is testament to this.
Journalists have long been attacked, ridiculed and hated. As such, they’re probably seen in the same light as politicians. But one thing is for sure, if there were no journalists (and I’m not saying they’re all honourable but I believe the majority are) how would we hold people to account? How would we learn about news the world over? How would we gain different perspectives of an argument? How would we educate and be provoked to think?
One thing is for sure – fear of terrorism is at its peak. Acts of terror range from mass scale, such as 9/11, which shook the world and transformed travel protocol, to amateur attacks by individuals who go on an angry rampage, such as the recent case in Canada. In between, there are calculated, well-planned acts involving sophisticated weaponry, such as the attack today.
I doubt Paris will sleep tonight in fear of the attackers who are on the run. Crucially, will they attack again? Moreover, will there be reprisal attacks on French Muslims who have nothing to do with this but may be scapegoated in this so-called jihadi war.
Yet, when I went to Paris last year I admired the multicultural mix of the city. People of all faiths, practising and non-practising, were living in solidarity. I hate to think how fear and anger from today’s events will impact the otherwise peaceful people of Paris.
Could journalism come to the rescue to prevent further social upheaval? After all, the pen is mightier than the sword.