Charlie and the defense of freedom

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Two days after the appalling Charlie Hebdo incident, the Zurich stage saw a reaction. “Lieber Charlie,….” – a hypothetical letter to the newspaper, written by one allegedly much maligned by it, expressing solidarity and contemplating the termination of his employment contract. The orator showed more courage, understanding and wit in his blasphemy than was displayed by most commenters, professional or lay. The wit is par for the course, for this was a poetry reading, but his courage deserves applause, given that the last time cartoons of this specific nature were in the international media, much violent destruction resulted. Indeed, the lethal effects were felt even in Pakistan, a land far away from Denmark, where the cartoons had originated.

The merciless attack in Paris and ensuing reaction have many facets: freedom of expression, independence of the press, being cowed (or not) by terror, rational thinking, tolerance, militancy of organized religion, marginalization of social minorities, human sympathy occasionally limited by nationality or ethnicity, the caricatures of Julius Streicher encouraging anti-Semitic terror in Germany (as an example of whether we might tolerate absolutely all caricature), and perhaps others – but here we focus on a particularly important one:

Freedom of the press – yes, a thousand times yes! But that freedom does not acquit us from the responsibility to think.

Back to Pakistan, a land where terrorists lay waste life and resources on a regular basis, with the Peshawar school massacre being a particularly low point. Two days after Charlie, a Pakistani journalist opined on two recent pieces of legislation, encouraged by the army and passed unanimously by the legislature. Together, they allow the establishment of military courts in that country to try civilians, eroding the balance of power between the executive and the judiciary, and potentially paving the way for increased arbitrariness in the exercise of power. This respectable journalist of many decades is perhaps sick of it all, sick of the violence he continually hears of, and in his old age seeks peace. This is what he wrote sanctioning this shameful legislation:

While we should certainly not descend to the level of the Taliban, we need to beef up our ability to defend ourselves. And if this calls for compromising the human rights of terror suspects, so be it.

This insidious “…so be it.” is at par or worse than the most explicit cartoons one may or may not freely publish. Of course, in the post-Snowden world, we are all terror suspects – but we may not even leave some of us in the lurch, for we know where that path leads.

The pen can be used to defend liberties, but also to snatch them away.

We must stand with Charlie. And not just with Charlie – but with all those who stand for freedom, and for the freedom of all, and against those who would take away freedoms, be those our freedoms or those of others.

As the Charlie Hebdon front page has it:

PARCE QUE LA LIBERTÉ EST UN DROIT UNIVERSEL…

Because liberty is a universal right….

#jesuischarlie #jesuisaussilesautres #liberte #freedom #freedomforall