Freedom, Journalism and Western Values After Charlie Hebdo Attack

Being a journalist is dream of tens of thousands of people around the world. It is usually associated with fame and fun. But journalism is not limited to comfortable sport broadcasts or reporting political quarrels. It is also not an arm-chair blogging or tweeting. Sometimes it involves putting ones life at risk. And as a terrorist attack on an office of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo shows, one can lose ones life even in such a safe city as Paris. 12 people were murdered by suspected islamist attackers, who still remain at large. If suspicions turn out to be true, journalists were killed in the name of Allah (one of the assailants was captured on video outside the building shouting „Allahu Akbar!”). Few of the victims were targeted at a kill-list at Inspire, Al-Qaeda’s e-magazine. The chant below read as follows: a bullet a day keeps the infidel away. God willing, they shall add. Charlie Hebdo was targeted because it dared to publish cartoons with prophet Muhammad and radical islamists’ leaders like Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, head of so-called Islamic State.

Strike Back at the Enemies of Freedom

Attack on Charlie Hebdo shall inspire a deep debate on Western attitude towards Islam and its radical elements. It seems that the West had gone too far in its reluctance to act when islamists use, and abuse, Western freedoms to incite, praise and conduct violence against the West, Western values and Western societies. One cannot separate recent mass-protests in Germany (PEGIDA) from what happened today in Paris. One cannot also accept that those German protestors are labeled as fascists or even neo-nazis. They point out to important issue that has to be tackled. It cannot be silenced any longer. Time for debate has come. It’s now. Or never?

The message to radicals shall be plain – the West will not tolerate your activities and hatespeech. You cannot hide yourselves behind Western freedoms and values. You cannot bet on Western justice to treat you in the same way it treats Western societies. If you decide to attack, even verbally, Western values, freedoms and societies, you will not be able to benefit from those same freedoms and values. Simple as that. Radicals and extremists shall be expelled or jailed, and places where they disseminate hatred shall be closed. It is not compulsory to live in the West. Living here requires acceptance of certain core values. If one rejects them, one shall be rejected too. Without any hard feelings. The West is no prison, but it shall not be a safe haven for West-rejectionists either.

Putin’s Crocodile Tears and The Hard Life of a Journalist

Coming back to journalists, it seems that this job carries more risks with itself than ever. As Reporters Without Borders indicate in their yearly reports, more and more journalists lose their lifes or are imprisoned for what they do. Under the eye of president Vladimir Putin, who swiftly condemned the attack on Charlie Hebdo and vowed for cooperation in a struggle against terrorism, at least 33 journalists were killed in Russia since 2000, to name Anna Politkovskaya as an example. In Mexico at least 88 journalists were killed from 2000 to 2013 by drug cartels and dozens have just vanished. On the other hand, we have the biggest prisons for journalists in countries like Eritrea or Turkey. One cannot also forget about Egyptian example of Al Jazeera news crew that was sentenced to years in prison on grounds of supporting terrorism (sic!). Even Western countries are sometimes caught in the spotlight, for example United States or Australia, with their surveillance practices and (low) protection for the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.

Western freedoms and values that are cherished so much by its societies and ruling elites have not been given, but won in a series of hard battles. Those freedoms and values had cost blood. What we see in moments like today, is that they still cost blood. And they are not given forever. They must be protected from numerous assailants, from which the islamist radicals are just one example.

Je suis Charlie.

Piotr Wolejko

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