Being decent does not equate to cowardice

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It is pointless trying to make sense of why two people would murder staff at a satirical magazine after it had poked fun at Islam by printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The magazine’s editor acknowledged the risk of printing such images but stated he was standing up for his freedom to publish what he saw fit and he and his team paid way too high a price for that.

The right to say what you want, when you want is a freedom many take for granted and, as has been proved in recent days, there is much confusion as to what it really means. Since the killing of the magazine staff as they conducted their regular news conference, a process I and many journalists across the world do as a matter of routine, a vocal majority has risen as one to stand up for one of the fundamental rights of any civilised society.

Of course nobody should fear being shot in their place of work by those who object to something their employer published but with freedom of speech and expression comes responsibility. Those who shout ‘we are free to say what the hell we like’ overlook the fact there are many laws which prevent us from doing that, not to mention the strict media industry guidelines and those of each publication and news organisation. This is one of the reasons why we did not immediately see the Charlie Hebdo cartoons reproduced by newspapers and magazines across the world.

It would be deemed reckless by some if a major news group decided it would disregard what happened last week and print the taboo images but editors and executives will have discussed at length what they would gain from reprinting the cartoons. The answer is nothing and, insensitive as it sounds, Charlie Hebdo was hardly flourishing before the unspeakable tragedy and had only recently launched an appeal to keep the magazine going.

Upholding the freedom of speech in such terms is no guarantee of success for a publication, although the future of Charlie Hebdo does now seem secure following donations, support from the French government and it is now guaranteed status as a sacred institution.

Right now much of the world is united against terror and, quite rightly, journalists everywhere, including me, will continue to uphold our rights. But just because the sensible decision was taken not to print those cartoons doesn’t mean that the fanatics have won.