THE BLOG

Only Through Solidarity Can We Defeat Those Who Would Use Violence to Silence Free Speech

08/01/2015 16:12 GMT | Updated 10/03/2015 09:59 GMT

Today at 1400 GMT a global coalition of publications and organisations published cartoons, covers and writing from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo as a signal of solidarity with the French publication, which came under such deadly attack yesterday.

The joint action underlined the commitment of authors and journalists around the world to state their commitment to freedom of expression and its vital importance. We stand together for the right to mock, to caricature, to argue, debate and offend.

Those involved include the Guardian in the UK , South Africa's Mail and Guardian, Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paolo, the City Press in South Africa as well as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, freeDimensional, Index on Censorship, PEN America, Reporters Without Borders and English PEN. They will be part of a moment around the world when people from many nations speak up for the fundamental right to freedom of expression and what it stands for. And to show solidarity.

As South Africa's Mail and Guardian said in a special editorial that was published at the same time: "The goals of terrorism - if we were to dignify utter insanity with having aims - are fear and polarisation."

Over the past decade it has often been left to small individual publications to take a strong stand on freedom of expression incursions. This global action is a way of showing it is not just one publication or author that stands alone.

For those over the years who say they support freedom of expression but with opt outs, or who have argued that freedom of expression doesn't extend to articles, photographs or cartoons which offend them, it should be made clear that freedom of expression gives everyone the chance to debate opinions, and that right is vital.

If we stopped writing or broadcasting about every issue that someone found offensive then the newspapers and television news would be empty of subjects. We would know nothing, and we would have no way of knowing what others thought.

Reading an article, or viewing a cartoon never killed anyone, and listening to someone's thoughts, even if you don't agree with them should never, ever mean someone's life is forfeit. By arguing and discussing, you have, as John Stuart Mill said in On Liberty, opportunities to find out the truth, if we are afraid to discuss or offend then our opportunities to gain knowledge is vastly reduced.

We believe that only through solidarity - in showing that we truly defend all those who exercise their right to speak freely - can we defeat those who would use violence to silence free speech. We ask media organisations, individuals and everyone who supports free speech to join together in this action.

Other news organisations and websites have already shown their support by publishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, in newspapers including The Times, Time, the New York Times and Berliner Zeitung, and on websites such as Buzzfeed. We hope some of those organizations will also choose to make a statement of support.

Each publication will select what to publish individually. But by choosing to act together we show that together we stand up for journalism and the right to free speech, no matter what, and to show our support and respect for those killed on January 7.

Rachael Jolley is editor of Index on Censorship