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  • Writer's picturePauline Kok


There is more than enough written about the executions in Paris, where many people (both guilty and innocent) were masacred within a matter of hours. For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about how to write how I feel about these events in my blog.

“Je suis Charlie” became an instant slogan—shouted and repeated, written and read, heard and seen by millions of people. “Je Suis Charlie”. Oh the power of social media on behalf of a newspaper that focused solely on right-wing satire where no religion was safe.

Journalist Peter Bella wrote that more than 100 journalists were killed “doing their job” in 2014 and that many were executed simply because they were journalists. Journalists are reporters — men and women — on the hunt for news, any news our society considers worth reading. They write about anything and everything. Nothing is sacred as they hide behind the mantra “freedom of speech”.

Freedom of speech is priceless. Freedom of speech is a gift to humanity. Freedom of speech is an honor. That is what I believe about this freedom, this freedom of speech.

But we are naive if we do not grasp the consequences of this gift. Yes, those consequences can be beautiful, inspiring, creative and life altering. But they can also insult, hurt, condemn and eventually kill.

People have a right to live according to their values and strong convictions, which are their own and no one else’s. As a nation we have the right to freedom of speech just as much as we have the right to freedom of faith and worship. Worship is precious and personal. Who and what people believe in should be off limits to taunts, sarcasm and ridicule.

The murders in Paris were wrong, no question.

But to publicly display contempt and purposefully humiliatie what a person perceives as holy and sacred is also wrong.

In the end I am humbled and grateful for the many freedoms that I now enjoy, for it does not take much for memories of captivity and constraint to come rushing back to me. I am grateful that I too have the freedom of speech to describe this global catastrophe in my own words, and share my opinion without fear of ridicule or punishment.

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