Friday, 9 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie: Stand Up For Free Speech

The Five Assassinated Charlie Hebdo Cartoonists
Cabu, Wolinski, Charb, Tignous & Philippe Honore (not pictued) 
In total 17 people were victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris between 7-9 January 2015
(Art by Tom Tomorrow)

(from Stand Up For Free Speech, 8 January 2015)
Index on Censorship, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and PEN America call on all those who believe in the fundamental right to freedom of expression to join in publishing the cartoons or covers of Charlie Hebdo on January 8 at 1400 GMT.

We believe that only through solidarity – in showing that we truly defend all those who exercise their right to speak freely – can we defeat those who would use violence to silence free speech. We ask media organisations, individuals and everyone who supports free speech to join together in this action.

Each publication will select a cartoon, a range of cartoons, or covers that they believe best reflect the right to free expression and publish at the same time globally. The idea is a moment of unity in which we show that together we stand up for journalism and the right to free speech, no matter what, and to show our support and respect for those killed on January 7.

“The ability to express ourselves freely is fundamental to a free society,” said Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship. “This includes the freedom to publish, to satirise, to joke, to criticise, even when that might cause offence to others. Those who wish to silence free speech must never be allowed to prevail.”

“Satire is both a privilege and a necessity in a free society. The freedom to question, to expose, to mock ultimately makes institutions, belief systems, and leaders stronger. The resort to murderous vengeance for the crime of drawing and publishing cartoons represents a terrifying perversion of religious values and an assault on our shared values.  No matter how offensive, speech is never a justification for violence.” Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director, PEN American Center

"The attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices is tragic, but it is also proof of just how powerful cartoons and cartoonists can be. Despite threats and prior attacks, the publishers, editors, and cartoonists of Charlie Hedbo never relented in using satire to question the world around them," said Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein. "CBLDF stands with Charlie Hebdo and their dedication to free expression."

(Click image to enlarge)

Left: Published in 2006, the headline reads "Mohammed Overwhelmed by Fundamentalism." In the cartoon, Muhammad weeps as he states, "It's hard to be loved by idiots," a comment on religious extremism that has marred Islam. Within its pages, the magazine reprinted 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad which had originally appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, bringing unprecedented condemnation from the Muslim world. Then editor Philippe Val was taken to court by the French Council for the Muslim Faith alleging that the issue fomented hatred against Islam. Val was acquitted in a decision seen by many as a victory for freedom of the press, however this issue of Charlie Hebdo has since been considered the one which positioned the magazine as a target for terrorist attacks.

Middle: Perhaps the issue of the magazine that inspired the largest international reaction was published in 2012, and sports a cover depicting an orthodox Jewish man pushing a Muslim man in a wheelchair. The headline reads "Intouchables 2" (a spoof of the movie The Intouchables, at the time, France's second biggest box-office hit  in which a rich white man who is paralyzed from the neck down hires a black ex-con from the projects to be his caretaker). But, as with the 2006 cover, the deeper controversy came on the next page with a satire of another movie, this time Innocence of Muslims, in which an ex-con paid people to act out scenes that had nothing to do with Islam before replacing the audio to create a terrible movie ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed. No one saw the movie at the time, but he posted a 14-minute video on YouTube and an anti-Muslim activist in Virginia translated it into Arabic and sent the link to activists in Egypt resulting in violent protests. The Charlie Hebdo cartoon depicts the prophet naked and in pornographic poses, and the French government urged the magazine not to publish the images. When the magazine refused, the French government closed embassies and consulates in about 20 countries as a precaution.

Right: The previous year, Mohammed graced the cover to celebrate the Tunisian Islamist party Ennahda's victory in the recent elections. As a response, Charlie Hebdo printed a special issue called Charia Hebdo (pronounced like Sharia law, or Islamic law) "guest edited" by the prophet himself. The cover promised "100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter!" Charlie Hebdo's homepage was subsequently hacked and replaced with the single phrase "No god but Allah." The office was attacked with a Molotov cocktail that destroyed all the property and equipment inside. (Following that, the magazine published a Muslim man kissing a cartoonist.)

"...When I started drawing, I always thought we were safe, as we were drawing pseudo Mickey Mouse. Now, after the deaths, the shoot outs, the violence, everything has changed. All eyes are on us, we’ve become a symbol, just like our cartoons...."
Luz (Charlie Hebdo cartoonist)
"We have a lot of new friends, like the pope, Queen Elizabeth, and Putin. It really makes me laugh. Marine Le Pen is delighted when the Islamists start shooting all over the place... We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends. They've never seen Charlie Hebdo."
Willem (Charlie Hebdo cartoonist)


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