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I am Charlie #JeSuisCharlie

Nicholas Norbrook
By Nicholas Norbrook
Managing Editor of The Africa Report

Posted on Thursday, 8 January 2015 13:07

On the morning of 7 January, armed men burst into the editorial conference of the satirical journal, and, calling out the names of their targets, shot them with assault rifles.

I feel it is probably time that France reckoned with its history

The editorial conference is the beating heart of any publication – where big ideas are debated, arguments rage, jokes are cracked and small politics played out. To stop it, with violence, is a symbol.

As journalists, we have to search for and reflect many viewpoints, even as we unite to condemn an attack on our peers. This is no time for groupthink.

And debate has flourished online, though often unchecked by compassion – this is the price we pay for the anonymity of the web.

Some have weighed in on whether Charlie Hebdo was ‘Muslim-baiting’. Others on whether Charlie was not ‘punching up’ at elites bigger than itself, like a satirical paper should, but instead attacking a downtrodden minority.

Probably the best debate on these issues can be found in the comments to this piece.

The danger now, in France’s already polarised political climate, is that extremists on both sides seize on this act. Retaliatory attacks happened overnight. In eastern France, a bomb targeting a mosque destroyed a Kebab shop.

As someone with French blood, I feel it is probably time that France reckoned with its history – Germany did a profound ‘travail de mémoire‘ after the Second World War, a brave confrontation with its violence and racist past.

It is time that France did the same.

Sadly, its hard to see the leaders on either side of the political divide having the appetite to do so.

Last, and perhaps most importantly, we stand with the cartoonists, and brave writers and photographers the world over, who perish weekly.

As Mona Eltahawy points out, “Palestinian cartoonist Naji el-Ali was murdered; Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat had his hands smashed.”

The fight for the freedom of expression – which, lest we forget, includes the free flow of knowledge – is a global one.

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