Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Is Charlie Hebdo Attack Only a Tragedy to Free Expression OR Evidence of The Thin Line Between Satire and Offence

In the wake of the tragedy in Paris, France where the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was attacked and its journalists and cartoonists killed in a military style for publishing cartoons that depicted the Islamic Prophet in a way that incensed Muslims, I ask myself as journalists where do we draw the line between whats satirical and whats offensive? Is freedom expression enough justification to offend other people and keep offending even if they have expressed offence? Is it everyone that appreciates satire and actually ''gets it''?

Is the emerging suppression of freedom of expression for today's journalists in a networked global world no longer just from governments as was the major concern for the journalists of yester year? Are we as today's journalists faced with an increasing multi faceted dilemma of  public censure based on peoples opinions of what is right and what is wrong. These people's opinions being derived from such things as religion, certain defined morals, common beliefs based on bounded livelihoods among many other things.

The execution of my fellow journalists in that building left me mourning and asking all these pertinent questions. I am now dealing with a dilemma of my own trying to balance it out between what we can consider free expression as media practitioners. Maybe it was not such a good thing to mock the Islamic prophet because in my opinion he has not committed any crime against anyone. If anyone has issues with some people from the Islamic religion why not mock those people and leave the Prophet alone? I am having all these questions and thinking if I would like to see Jesus being mocked and am not sure how I would react if it was to happen. If anyone did not agree with certain christian would then that person have justification to go all the way and mock Jesus?

Ironically, three or so days ago I read a comment on a website in which they, a news site themselves, pointed out something which provoked deep thought and introspection for me. On 4 January 2015 the website wrote ''Freedom of expression is not an excuse to be abusive, without a conscience and devoid of compassion. It comes with a responsibility''
I couldn't help but take note of this statement then and how pregnant with meaning it was for me. Maybe, I thought, as journalists and information givers we need to do some kind of introspection on whether some of our freedom of expression will do humanity any good. My mind quickly drifts to the Rwandan genocide which was caused in its entirety by a reckless statement on radio all n the name of free expression.

The questions that maybe we have to ask is whether as journalists we do not have any role to play in contributing to greater good and the betterment of humanity in our societies. And in light of what happened in Paris I ask the critical question that have we, as journalists, pushed the line all in the name of freedom of expression. Would it be so difficult, if a whole religion did not want their Prophet to be depicted in cartoons in a way they consider insensitive, to just let it go?

And in regards to satire, how provocative were the cartoons? And was there no need to take a step back after the initial bombing attack to actually review and take into consideration the feeling of the Islamic people regarding the cartoons depicting their Prophet. Is it not the reason why we sometimes as press retract some things when we cross the line in our writing. As 3-mob went on to quote Jay Shepherd when he said, ethics is knowing the right thing I hope that we beginning to know whats right and find the true meaning of free expression.

So as we move forward as journalists, unhindered in our freedom to express ourselves the big question is to revisit our ethics as a profession and also to search our souls if we do not have a duty to contribute to greater good by letting certain things go.

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