Freedom of expression and free press continues to unsettle political and religious figures and movements around the world. The recent massacre of journalists and cartoonists of a French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by Islamic extremists is an example of what happens when religious fanatics are unsettled by these tenets of democracy. They resort to violence.
In 2014 alone around 61 journalists were killed around the world. According to Committee to Protect Journalists more journalists were killed in Syria – a war torn country. Hundreds of other Journalists are languishing in jails and captivity around the world. These criminals masquerading as religious movements also constantly harass journalists.
The rise of Islamic extremism around the world has not made it easy for journalists to do their work. The extremists’ disdain for freedom of expression and free press emanates from the fact that they (extremists) hate free society and open society, scrutiny and examination. The Charlie Hebdo massacre also show that these extremists also hate satire. The intolerance by the extremists has produced men and women who are capable of killing in the name of religion.
To date dozens of journalists have been killed in the Middle and Far East. It all started with brave journalists like Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and later beheaded by Al-Qaeda in Pakistan in 2002. In Syria alone 17 journalists covering the Syrian civil war were killed in 2014. Several other journalists have been killed in places like Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, and many other countries.
The Islamic extremists have proved many times that they have no mercy and do not conform to laws of civilisation. Their barbarism is preposterous. Whether it is Boko Haram in Nigeria, or ISIS in Syria or Al Shabaab in Somalia? The recent beheadings of journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley show how barbaric these extremists are. They have no regard for human life.
It is unfortunate that these men and women justify their evil deeds and draw inspiration from the Islamic religion. When they attacked Charlie Hebdo offices they allegedly shouted “Allahu akbar” (Allah is Great).
We submit that the problem is not Islam but criminals who hide behind Islam to cause untold miseries to any one who differs with them including Muslims. We agree with the 1997 UNESCO Resolution 29 condemning ‘violence against journalists’. We also agree with UNESCO that assassinations and physical violence against journalists is crime against society and curtails freedom of expression and as a consequence other rights and freedoms.
We join the rest of the world in condemning the killings of journalists around the world and call for authorities around the world to take action against these extremists. We join the rest of the world in mourning the death of journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo. ‘Nous sommes Charlie’ (We are Charlie).
“From the beginning men used God to justify the unjustifiable.”
– Salman Rushdie