#JeSuisCharlie and the attack on freedom of speech

Waking up to sad news this morning, I was prompted to read and listen to news reports over CNN and in my social media networks reposting about this satirical publication and how terrorists stormed their editorial office and executed specific editorial staff.

Front cover with satirical cartoon, typical of Charlie Hebdo style. Image swiped from reddit.

Front cover with satirical cartoon, typical of Charlie Hebdo style. Image swiped from reddit.

And I posted this thought on my FB:

This French terrorist incident is sad and quite alarming to me, a media practitioner, since a small media outlet was the subject of the extremist executions. Yet it also puts to light the concept that, no matter how “small” a media outlet is — a publication with limited circulation, community-run media, etc. — a small voice could carry a huge message, one that could shake up how people think, and to this sad extent prompt zealots to take action against such “small voices.”

One need not look far for parallel examples as the history of Philippine media had many of such “small voices” and “alternative outlets” insightful enough to make even a ruthless dictator take action against it (how do you think PDI began?). I don’t know if Charlie Hebdo considered itself as part of alternative or independent media but what I’m sure of is that small media publications that could present alternative ways of seeing the world still matter.

And this should also be a lesson to us here in mainstream media-worshipping Philippines to maybe start supporting community media, alternative media/independent media/because they, too, matter, and could even (re)present issues better. ‪#‎justsaying‬ ‪#‎munimunimode‬ ‪#‎newsmiron‬

Indeed, as a media practitioner, I know how it is to be subjected to such threats. I started the “hard news” side of my cultural journalism career in the early 2000s when the then president Erap was being impeached. The small publication I was with also had quite a few experiences and run-ins with powers that be. But of course, this attack on Charlie Hebdo weekly magazine is different given the circumstances of their content and the supposed population they have allegedly offended.

But aside from the global perspectives here, what got to me personally is that I like cartoons and was once dreaming of becoming one, professionally. This is why I entered U.P. as a Fine Arts student at first, but fell out of love for the whole program after 2.5 years in it. I guess the universe has other plans for me. But from time to time, I still go back to my old hobby of drawing and cartooning. But I digress.

What else do we get from this situation, regardless if we react politically or personally? I guess it’s about understanding concepts better. Satire and criticism are sometimes concepts that still need to be understood by people, more so by those who get hurt easily. As one term emerged last year said, “butthurt” masyado ang reaction, pertaining to Pinoys’ over-defensive reactions whenever we are satirized or criticized somewhere in some form. Is the Charlie Hebdo attack a form of zealous butthurt-ism? Perhaps. But as my professor in mass media law back in college quipped, I may not agree with your opinion but I will defend your right to say it, or so he lectured. And that is the true epitome of this thing called freedom of speech.

But what this latest tragedy just proves is that freedom of speech is very much alive, and should also be continued, even in the face of such danger. For how could a society truly progress if it cannot be scrutinized from time to time? And who better to scrutinize than the ones who live in it. It’s just sad that a group of people take things to the extreme, believing that they have to take into their own hands the lives of those who speak against what they believe in. It’s not called freedom of speech for nothing. And freedom to live is also attached to that freedom of speech, lest they forget.

But sadly, today, they did.

Condolences to the family of the deceased. Stop killing media practitioners.

Et arrêtez la haine, s’il vous plait. Maintenant.


~ by leaflens on January 8, 2015.

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