Column: Je Suis Charlie

Since the horrific murders of Charlie Hebdo magazine staff last week, Europe in particular has been a very confused place.

We have been united in condemnation in this act of terror, and in the unprecedented strength of support for the right to free speech.

Journalists and cartoonists have been particularly shaken by this response to publishing with violence.

Opinions, after all, are just that, opinions, whether it be in the form of a cartoon or a column like this one.

You might not agree – and we would never expect everyone to.We may get a reaction but do certainly not deserve to die.

But at the same time, all journalists comment to a point only – we are schooled in media laws, in ethics, to ensure we do not go over certain boundaries. So speech is not quite as free as one might think.

In fact, largely journalists are in the pursuit of facts, with our opinions generally irrelevant, if not backed up and corroborated.

Publish and be damned is not a mindset oft employed by editors constrained by law in a litigious society.

But we ARE free to report. And it is when we are no longer free to do that that we must fight back.

And put in simple terms – the staff at Charlie Hebdo who lost their lives – are no longer free to do their job.

No matter how controversial their stance – and the surviving staff have now even satirised the very people united in support of them – they did not deserve to be injured or killed while working and exercising rights of a free society.

It is that message which shines from the public reaction to the atrocity.

Bloodshed is not the act of honest, decent, people living in a civilised, democratic, society.

Charlie Hebdo poked at wasps next with a stick but its staff did not deserve to die.

In reality, the only reason we have freedom of speech is because we are restricted by laws, rules and guidelines of the modern world. These strictures allows us to speak and act freely and responsibly – without fear of death at every turn.

So while supporting free speech we must remember why we have it at all. #jesuischarlie

Published in the Lancaster Guardian. Click HERE