Editorial: Attacks in Paris should not deter free speech

In the wake of a shooting rampage on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7, the phrase “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie,” united the world in a single voice.

The disbelief and outrage of the public was met with an act of brazen defiance and bravery from the same weekly magazine that came under attack.

Despite the murder of eight employees, including editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier, Charlie Hebdo met Saturday to plan Wednesday’s issue as scheduled.

“The message is that we will go on, that we are stronger than they are,” surviving Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Bernard Holtrop said to The Globe and Mail. “Weapons are not our strength. We draw funny things. That’s our strength.”

Charlie Hebdo’s content is crude and provoking to say the least, with its material attacking the likes of the Pope and the Prophet Muhammad (presumably the cause of the recent attack).

But we need an environment of free speech where anything, no matter how vulgar or controversial, can be expressed without fear of persecution.

Considering the loss of life of friends and co-workers, the staff’s decision to continue publishing so quickly had to be a difficult one.

But Charlie Hebdo represents something in a grander scheme now — it has become the global symbol for free speech.

So the staff’s decision to continue publishing, albeit courageous and praiseworthy, was the only logical choice to make.

Whether it was prepared or not, Charlie Hebdo was thrust into the international spotlight.

And now its remaining staff members are torchbearers in the global fight for a completely free speech.

With that kind of exposure comes a duty to continue exercising your right to free speech, not to yield to extremists and mute it.