Incident single deadliest attack on journalists since the 2009 Ampatuan Massacre

INTERNATIONAL journalists groups and freedom of expression advocates condemned the brutal shooting that killed 12 people at the editorial headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Wednesday.

The attack has been dubbed as the single deadliest attack on journalists since the 2009 Ampatuan Massacre in the Philippines.

Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) expressed solidarity with Charlie Hebdo by issuing an international appeal to media editors to begin publishing the magazine’s cartoons starting today.

“…(F)reedom of information cannot shrink in the face of barbarity and yield to blackmail by those who assail out democracy and what our republic stands for. In the name of all those who have fallen in the defence of fundamental values, let us continue Charlie Hebdo’s fight for free information,” the RSF statement read.

THE ABC 7-Los Angeles television’s Tagboard showing the use of the hashtag
#JeSuisCharlie referring to the attack on the Charlie Hebdo editorial headquarters.

“This is the darkest day of the history of the French press,” said Christophe DeLoire of Reporters Sans Frontières. New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called the incident as a “brazen assault on free expression in the heart of Europe.”

“The scale of the violence is appalling. Journalists must now stand together to send the message that such murderous attempts to silence us will not stand,” the CPJ statement read.

For its part, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed its sincere condolences to the fallen journalists and vowed to “muster all its resources, working with our affiliates in Europe and beyond, to ensure that this crime does not go unpunished and justice is done for the victims.”

“An attack on an editorial office and killing journalists amounts to attacking the profession as a whole and also democracy,” IFJ Deputy General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said in their statement.

A TRIBUTE to Charlie Hebdo by satirical cartoonists a day after the massacre in Paris.

In its statement, issued Thursday, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said that the attack “highlights how intolerance has become an increasingly deadly bane to freedom of expression and of the press.”

“This is, sadly, true not only among those who hold extremist views of whatever faith they believe in but even in countries that profess to respect and protect those freedoms,” NUJP Chair Rowena Paraan said. Paraan added that there can only be one response to attacks on freedom of expression and of the press, which is to “fight back by continuing to express ourselves freely despite our fears.”

“We acknowledge that there have been and will continue to be debates about the role journalistic responsibility—or lack of it—factors into such attacks on the freedom of the press. But while we acknowledge the indispensability of ethics in the profession, we also maintain that no mode of expression, however offensive or unethical it may be, deserves a death sentence,” the NUJP statement reads.

THE CHARLIE HEBDO Twitter account | Screengrab from Charlie Hebdo Twitter account

Last Wednesday, three masked men, armed with assault rifless and a rocket launcher, stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo and killed at least 12 people — most of whom were journalists.

They also critically wounded at least five other journalists and police officers. One of the police officer responding to the attack was shot at point-blank range, an incident captured on video.

The masked men targeted the magazine’s editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier and his police escort first as the staff were holding an editorial meeting at the time.

The assault—that lasted about five minutes—also killed cartoonists Georges Wolinski and Berbard Verlhac. The Charlie Hebdo office had been gutted in 2011 with a firebomb for printing a caricature of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad kissing a cartoonist with the caption “Love is stronger than hate.”

Here in the Philippines, freedom of expression advocates are also equally appalled at a decision of the Court of Appeals which affirmed the conviction of social activist Carlos Celdran for “offending religious feelings.”

Yesterday, the High Tribunal sentenced Celdran to two months and 21 days to one year, one month and 11 days of imprisonment for shouting inside the Manila Cathedral five years ago. Celdran’s stunt was to ask the Catholic Church to stop interfering with state political affairs on the contentious reproductive health law.

Carlos Celdran photo from Asian Correspondent

The case was filed by Monsignor Nestor Cerbo of the Manila Cathedral.