Charlie Hebdo created ethical, free speech puzzles for news agencies

By Loribeth Reynolds

On the morning of Jan. 7, irrational anger became tragic action, as 12 journalists were executed at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine located in Paris.

Two masked, Islamic extremists forced their way into the offices, rushed upstairs with AK-47s and shot the magazine’s editor and 11 cartoonists to death.

Storm clouds still loom over the free press and the world. Many said an assault on free speech had taken place in the center of Europe.

Charlie Hebdo is known for its satirical cartoons. The magazine became a terrorist target after publishing cartoons crudely depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

It is a common belief in the Muslim faith that the prophet must not be depicted in any form.

This isn’t the first time Charlie Hebdo has been the center of a terrorist act.

On the cover of a 2011 edition of Charlie Hebdo, the prophet was depicted as saying “100 lashes if you’re not dying of laughter.”

This apparently was the cartoon that inspired someone to firebomb their offices, destroying property but causing no injuries.

In 2012, as the magazine depicted the prophet in the nude, the White House criticized the decision.

“We don’t question the right of something like this to be published, we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it,” said Jay Carney, spokesman for the White House.

After the Jan. 7 massacre, the new Charlie Hebdo cover was the topic of discussion in many newsrooms worldwide. The prophet stands against a green background, a single tear streaming down his cheek, holding a sign that reads, “JE SUIS CHARLIE (I am Charlie).”

Although this image doesn’t seem offensive to many people, it may still be offensive to some. A question being asked is, “To publish or not to publish.”

Many news organizations said they would not publish the cover. NBC, ABC, CNN, The Associated Press and The New York Times are among those that decided not to show it.

CBS, Fox, The Wall St. Journal, and The Washington Post are among those who published the image.

In Hutchinson, it was a topic of discussion.

“I don’t think if it degrades another person’s belief, it’s newsworthy,” said Elizabeth Castor, Hutchinson. “And if it is printed, wouldn’t that bring problems here?”

Others said by not publishing the cartoon, it chips away at our freedom of speech, allowing terrorists to become censors.

A line has been drawn between freedom of religion and freedom of speech. It can be a tricky one to navigate.

Journalists can become caught in the crosshairs of terrorism, while simply doing their jobs.

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