An attack on satiric magazine Charlie Hebdo has left 12 dead in Paris, including four cartoonists. The publication not only didn’t shy away from sensitive subjects, it courted controversy. From republishing an offensive Danish cartoon that depicted the prophet Muhammad to original work that teased Muslims, Catholics, Jews, and just about everyone else, Charlie Hebdo had a vigorous take on free speech. The French government advised the magazine not to publish some of its content. Editorial director Stephane Charbonnier, better known as Charb, was incensed. He likewise condemned the government for its attempts to stop a planned protest by Muslims.
“Why should they prohibit these people from expressing themselves?” he asked. Charb was among those killed in the attack.
It’s not only writers and cartoonists who worry about extremist reaction to satire. To whatever extent North Korea was involved in declaiming Sony over The Interview, media companies are increasingly wary about the safety of employees who create potentially inflammatory art. Will this attack lead to additional self-censorship? How concerned are journalists, opinion writers, cartoonists and others about violent retribution from those who disagree with their views?
Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN American Center, which defends the free expression of writers and artists
Michael Cavna, “Comic Riffs” blogger for the Washington Post and a cartoonist