As the story broke on every media platform imaginable, whether you were a viewer, reader, or listener, the impact was the same – shock and horror of course, but also confusion, anger, and frustration. Why should such things happen? What is there to be gained? When has killing people ever been an answer to anything? The French President, Francois Hollande, quite rightly said that what happened was ‘an act of exceptional barbarism’. In the FIPP offices, we shook our heads in disbelief, immediately condemned what had happened, and through our website linked to news sites that were covering the unfolding events in detail.
As the story has moved from reportage to analysis, the largest reaction has been that this was an attack on democracy, on the universal right of free opinion and expression enshrined in Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and more specifically an attack upon press freedom. Ironically, it was the French philosopher Voltaire who said, “I disapprove of what you say but I shall fight to the death for your right to say it.” Yesterday in the 11th Arrondissement we discovered just how powerful a proclamation it is.
FIPP member reactions
FIPP members have also expressed their horror at the attacks. Below are some comments from all over the world, which will be updated as we receive them:
“Like every person of good will in the world, I felt shocked by yesterday’s act of brutal violence against Charlie Hebdo’s colleagues and the two policemen. The concept and practice of freedom of speech and opinion are born out of the best part of humanity. The worst part of it will always fight to destroy it, in its own style. We have all been most tragically reminded that freedom has enemies and a price. As Wendell Phillips reportedly said in 1852, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. My thoughts and deepest condolences go to the families of the fallen.”
Fabrizio D’Angelo, CEO, Burda International, Germany
“On behalf of Arnaud Lagardère and myself, I wanted to say how profoundly we share your indignation in light of this barbarism Charlie Hebdo was struck with, and our deepest sadness for the victims, among which some were friends to the Group and co-workers – I am of course referring to Georges Wolinski and Cabu. But also, and formally, our determination to not let ourselves be intimidated, nor give up, at any cost, the right and mission for our editorial teams to inform freely. Terrorists will neither overcome our freedom, nor our peaceful coexistence, both republican values.”
Denis Olivennes, CEO, Lagardère Active, France
“An attack on free press in a free nation shocks and saddens us all. Let us reasonably assume that the creators of Charlie Hebdo would expect us to respond to this horror with measured action in the service of pluralism, equality and tolerance everywhere.”
Mark Jamison, CEO, Magazines Canada
“The attack shows that the value of freedom of expression, that seems to be a given in Europe, is under threat by fundamentalists, who do not “only” kill journalists but also create an atmosphere of uncertainty that undermines the principles of a free and independent media in Europe and beyond. It requires outstanding courage by journalists, editors and publishers to publish content criticising fundamentalism of any kind after today’s precedent. After having digested the shock about today’s terroristic attack against one of the most courageous representatives of the press in Europe, I hope we all find the strength and the energy to further promote, support and – if necessary – defend the value of a free, independent, diverse and vibrant press across Europe!”
Max Abendroth, executive director, European Magazine Media Association (EMMA)
“VDZ condemned the barbaric attack on the editorial team of Charlie Hebdo in the strongest terms. We are devastated and shocked by the murder of twelve people. We sympathise with the bereaved relatives, friends and colleagues of the editors, cartoonists, bodyguards and guests of the editorial staff. We also feel deep respect for the editors of Charlie Hebdo, which could not be intimidated by all the threats against them – they stood up for press freedom. It is an inhumane act against our pluralistic society and their foundations, an act against the right of freedom of speech, press freedom and freedom of the arts. January 7th is a black day in press history. Press freedom worldwide is more threatened than ever, also documented by the 66 journalists and reporters killed in 2014.”
Stephan Scherzer, CEO, VDZ, Germany
“PPA stands united with our colleagues at Syndicat des Editeurs de la Presse Magazine (SEPM) in France, across Europe and around the world in condemning the shocking attack on Charlie Hebdo on 7 January – a terrible event and one that strikes at the very core of democracy and freedom of expression. We would like to express our sympathy for the family and friends of the victims and our solidarity for everyone affected by this tragedy.”
Barry McIlheney, CEO, PPA, UK
“We talked immediately after the incident with National Geographic’s publishing partners in France at Prisme Press and offered our organisation’s support for the “Je Suis Charlie” show of solidarity and sympathy for the slain and injured journalists. That icon immediately appeared on the National Geographic French website and will on the cover of the February issue of National Geographic- France. Gary E. Knell, our president and CEO, used the occasion that day of an already scheduled managers’ meeting to voice that support. We then followed with similar support for the other French citizens slain or injured by this assault on the values globally recognised that believe in the tolerance and importance of free speech. The answer to any speech to which there is disagreement or even revulsion is always more speech, never violence.”
Terry Adamson, chief legal officer, senior advisor to the president and CEO, head, international publishing, secretary to the board of trustees, National Geographic Society, USA
Cartoons and covers in solidarity
No sooner had news of the attack spread, when cartoons and expressions of support started doing the rounds in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo cartoonists killed. The BBC has a tribute video here.
One particular image – initially thought to be a Banksy – was shared more than 100,000 times. The Independent ran a story about it, saying whether a Banksy or not, it remains a powerful image.
Newsweek reports about the difficulties of news outlets in deciding whether to use controversial images on covers, and how different outlets approached the matter. Read it here. In the meantime, this TIME story has a selection of covers from around the world.
Why, and what next?
As reaction began to move, in part, from reportage to analysis, TIME gave five potential reasons to explain the attack. See the story here.
The Economist, in turn, considered challenges facing France in the aftermath of the attack. The story is here.
And Charlie Hebdo
TIME carried a piece on the “provocative history of Charlie Hebdo.” See it here.