Has free speech changed since the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ attack?

Je Suis Charlie


“Charlie Hebdo,” a French satirical newspaper, was used to making headlines for its provocative cartoons – especially those featuring the prophet Mohammad. But that changed in January when two brothers stormed the newspaper and killed the publication’s editor and cartoonists.

In the wake of the attack, the world proclaimed its solidarity with the publication, proclaiming, “Je Suis Charlie” – I am Charlie.

On Feb. 19, visiting instructor Claire Ouselati-Porter took an auditorium full of students through a Global Learning discussion on free speech in the wake of these attacks.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

Is free speech an equal opportunity game?


In the West, we’re used to seeing Jesus on “Family Guy,” but we have to put this into context, Ouselati-Porter said. In the Muslim faith, it’s generally agreed upon that images of important religious figures are not shown and “Charlie Hebdo” published cartoons that mocked the prophet.

Are the impacts of publishing cartoons mocking Christianity and publishing those mocking Islam the same in a society like France?

It’s not, Ouselati-Porter argues because in France, the dominant culture was targeting a minority culture.

Is there really such a thing as free speech?


“We’re so not in that world at this point,” Ouselati-Porter said.

Most media agencies are controlled by large corporations. According to Businessinsider.com, six corporations control 90% of the media organizations in the US.

Is some of the Je Suis Charlie talk hypocrisy?

Bagley's Death of a Cartoonist

Ouselati-Porter shared this cartoon from “Salt Lake Tribune” cartoonist Pat Bagley that shows dictators or world leaders that have cracked down on free speech declare their support of free speech.

The price of free speech


Sometimes there are consequences for speaking out. Pictured above, former NSA analyst Edward Snowden (left), who leaked documents detailing the agency’s efforts to spy on communications with the United States, Julian Assange, who runs WikiLeaks, and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, a U.S. soldier serving time in prison for leaking information to WikiLeaks.

And Ouselati-Porter said, the United States also has jailed journalists Haider Shaye and Sami Al-Hajj who reported on secret drone strikes that killed civilians in Yemen.

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