Sat, 03 Jun, 2023

Freedom of Expression

By Ashmita Kunwar

Photo Courtesy:  ; "Je suis Charlie, Je suis Charlie” which means “I am Charlie, I am Charlie”, is the slogan that is most popular these days everywhere particularly on social media. This catchphrase trended at the top of twitter on 7th Jan, the day of an attack on the publication “CHARLIE HEBDO”. In total it has appeared 10 million times; 6,500 million times per minute, which brought great rebellion in the name of freedom of expression and freedom of speech.  Around 3.5 million people attended the rally in France waving the flags and the banners with slogan  "Je suis Charlie”. “CHARLIE HEBDO” is the satirical weekly published racist magazine featuring cartoons, reports and jokes. On 7th Jan 2015, the publication was attacked by a group of 3 terrorist gunmen where 12 people were killed and among them 10 were journalist. After this attack, millions of people were voicing out loud with a slogan “Je suis Charlie”. This incident in Paris has created a controversy at this moment. People these days repetitively talk about freedom of expression. What exactly is freedom of expression? Does freedom of expression mean the freedom to insult? Why are so many people shouting loud saying “Je suis Charlie”? With this slogan, what are they supporting “freedom of expression as the freedom of insult” or simply showing their empathy and their sympathy for the loss of lives, which should be mourned of course. Without knowing the hidden fact deep inside people are just sharing the post in the name of “Je suis Charlie”. It does not mean that killing journalists is good, of course it is bad, no one has the right to kill anyone and likewise no one has the right to insult someone’s religion and their faith. Charlie Hebdo is satirical and most often racist magazine which has repeatedly affronted the religion and faith of people, particularly the minorities. Is being offensive towards other religions protected under freedom of speech? In the name of freedom, can anyone cross all the limits they desire to? Of course, no one has the right to insult the religion, belief and the faith of other people in the name of freedom of expression. After the attack, exclusive sarcastic cartoon of Prophet Muhammad shedding tears in his eyes and holding the banner “Je suis Charlie”, was published. This particular edition published 3 million copies of it, which outraged many Muslims around the world. There are many people who were against the freedom of expression of Charlie Hebdo to publish such cartoons that are used to insult faith of other people. Yes, with no doubt, it is a fundamental right to express one’s opinion with no fear at all but it should have a limit. Freedom comes with responsibility. While expressing one’s opinion it should never hurt someone’s self- respect. Free speech is limited because you can say your opinion as long as it does not hurt other person’s thought and belief or it does not impose on another person’s right. It should not harm someone’s feelings intentionally. Even the Francis Pope was concerned in this topic where he stated that “one cannot provoke, one cannot insult other’s faith” adding that every religion “has its dignity”. ( There is always equal and opposite reaction for any action, it is scientifically proved natural circumstance. If you speak badly about someone, never expect good form him/ her either. To receive one’s respect you should respect them first. Charlie Hebdo is a satirical bigoted magazine; the cartoons published by it have negative impact on people and the society. Journalist should use their pen for the positive change of the society, to eliminate the bad and reflect the light in the society. Emphasizing on the statement “the freedom expression is not the freedom of insult” does not mean that it was good to attack Charlie Hebdo for their useless and sarcastic cartoons and for the insult of the religion of other community. We have our sympathy for those who loosed their life in the terrorist attack. Lastly, use freedom of expression as the responsibility to fight for the rights; to build not to break, for peace not for the war and certainly not to insult anyone.