Attack on ‘Charlie Hebdo’ is Serious Assault on Press Freedom
In response to the armed attack by masked gunmen on the Paris office of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which left at least 12 dead and 20 others wounded, including police as well as members of the paper’s senior staff, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“We condemn this horrific attack on a media outlet and its staff—the worst such attack globally in the past five years—as a direct threat to the right of freedom of expression in France, and to us all,” said Karin Karlekar, director of the Freedom of the Press project at Freedom House. “Silencing the messenger is the worst form of censorship, made even more abhorrent by violence.”
Charlie Hebdo is a well-known weekly that uses satire to comment on a range of political, religious, and social issues. In recent years, it has been under police protection following threats from Islamist extremist group. Its offices were firebombed in 2011 after it published a spoof edition that listed the Prophet as a guest editor.
Though there was no immediate claim of responsibility, websites and Twitter accounts associated with extremist Islamic groups offered approval of the attack, calling it revenge for the newspaper’s depictions of Islam and its prophet.
France is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2014, Free in Freedom of the Press 2014, and Free in Freedom on the Net 2014. Its press freedom ranking, #33 worldwide, reflects the fact that news outlets and journalists are occasionally subject to physical attacks from non-state actors.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.