Charlie Hebdo has become the face of freedom of expression worldwide. The hashtag “Je Suis Charlie” or “I am Charlie” was used millions of times and spread around the internet like wildfire. It expresses solidarity and support for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, but it primarily represents support for freedom of speech and against armed attacks. Together with the solidarity and unity that this horrific event has brought, there has also been a lot of hypocricy. On Sunday, world leaders from Qatar, Israel, Russia, Germany, US and other countries marched in the name of freedom of expression at the Charlie Hebdo rally in Paris. Many of these countries imprison and harass journalists and bloggers: there are hundreds of Charlie Hebdos in the world, and their stories must be told.
In 2014, even before the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the western world was forced to wake up. The public beheading of American journalists James Foley and Steve Sotloff and the imprisonment and sentence to 10 years of Australian Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste had already attracted attention on the issue of freedom of expression and press freedom. However, mainstream media arbitrarily covers stories because of their appeal, and there are many stories that do not make the headlines.
In the last three years, journalism has become an extremely dangerous job: journalists, bloggers and cartoonists all over the world are harassed persecuted and sometimes killed for doing their job and trying to document facts. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 91 journalists and media workers were killed in 2014. In the last month only, more than 40 journalists were either killed, imprisoned or persecuted because of their profession.
Just a few days ago Raif Badawi , a Saudi blogger facing a 10 year sentence, received the first 50 of the 1000 lashes he is to obtain as punishment. Other than lashing being a completely medieval method of punishing a human being, it is unthinkable that Badawi is facing such a sentence all because he called for open debate on the way the Saudi society is evolving. The flogging will resume on Friday.
On the 23rd of December, Marco Debarros Leopoldo Guerra, a Brazilian blogger who was critical of local authorities and accused them of corruption, was gunned down whilst returning to his home in the evening.
On the 3 January in Northern Nigeria 2000 people, mostly women children and elders, were killed by Islamism extremists group Boko Haram. Other than the fact that the world was concentrated on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, another reason why there was barely any coverage of the massacre is that the group has been targeting journalists, and therefore they were not there to report the facts.
A few days ago in Cuba, a group of Cuban dissidents were arrested before participating to a demonstration for freedom of expression in their country.
Yang Tongyand, a Chinese freelance journalist, has been in prison since 2005 on the anti-state charge. Yang was a well-known writer and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. He was a frequent contributor to U.S.-based websites banned in China, including Boxun News and Epoch Times. He often wrote critically about the ruling Communist Party and advocated for the release of jailed Internet writers.
Last August, in Ferguson, journalists from the Washington Post were arrested and harassed by police.
The list could go on and on.
It is important that between a hashtag and another, people gain as much knowledge as possible about the cause they claim to be fighting for, and take action by signing petitions or demonstrating amongst other things, to defend this sacred human right they hold so dear.
For more information:
To sign the petition to stop the flogging of Badawi: