Je Suis Charlie & The Right To Freedom of Expression

jesuischarlie
Image from the Charlie Hebdo website

By Jennifer Prestholdt

This week in Paris, 12 people were killed in a brutal attack on the office of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Among those who lost their lives were two policemen and Charlie Hebdo staff, including editor Stephane Charbonnier and three other well-known cartoonists. 

In the aftermath of the attack, thousands of people around the world have responded with large demonstrations and candlelight vigils. “Je Suis Charlie” has become a worldwide campaign to mourn those who died and to show support for freedom of speech and opinion everywhere. “Je Suis Charlie” has become a global rallying cry for freedom of expression.

The Advocates for Human Rights stands with those who mourn the loss of all who died, and honor the courageous Charlie Hebdo staff who were killed simply because they were exercising their universal human rights. There is no possible justification for these attacks. Those who planned and committed these crimes should be brought to justice through a fair trial. The French government should also take steps to ensure that all aspects of its response to the attack protects human rights, including protecting Muslims in France from reprisals.

This was not the first attack on Charlie Hebdo. The office had been firebombed in 2011 after running cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad. Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier had received death threats in the past and was living under police protection (his police guard was one of those killed).  The cartoonists who died during the attack, like many political cartoonists around the world, knew that to practice their art was to risk their lives.

In 2012, The Advocates for Human Rights posted a photo essay on an exhibit called “Cartooning for Peace” which highlighted the work of cartoonists around the world who risk great danger in order to voice their opinions and protect freedom of expression.  I am reposting that essay below. In the aftermath of the attacks, “Cartooning for Peace” has begun to publish cartoons in Le Monde which pay homage to those killed in the attacks. You can explore those cartoons here. 

The Charlie Hebdo has posted these two images on their website along with a statement that because freedom of expression is universal right, the next edition of the publication will be published on Wednesday, January 14.

crayon
Image from the Charlie Hebdo website

 CARTOONING FOR PEACE
(originally posted on August 5, 2012)

Cartoon by Kianoush

by Jennifer Prestholdt

In May, I was in Geneva to participate in the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review of Morocco and India. I went for a run one day along Quai Wilson on Lake Geneva and discovered an exhibition of political cartoons. The exhibition was sponsored by Cartooning for Peace/Dessins pour la paix, an initiative conceived of by French political cartoonist Plantu and launched at the United Nations in 2006. The goal of Cartooning for Peace is to promote better understanding and mutual respect between people of different faiths and cultures. Cartooning for Peace also works to promote freedom of expression and to protect the rights of cartoonists.

Cartooning for Peace and the City of Geneva created the new International Prize for Editorial Cartoons to honor cartoonists for their talent, outstanding contribution and commitment to the values of tolerance, freedom and peace. On May 3, 2012  – the World Day of Press Freedom – the prize was awarded for the first time to four Iranian political cartoonists.

Cartoon by Mana Neyestani
Cartoon by Mana Neyestani

The exhibition Dessins Pour La Paix  2012 displayed the work of the award-winning Iranian artists Mana Neyestani, Kianoush,  Firoozeh Mozaffari and Hassan Karimzade.

In addition, the exhibition included dozens of political cartoons by cartoonists around the world on the themes of freedom of expression, the Arab spring and the rights of women.

The exhibition in Geneva ran from May 3 to June 3, 2012. The full catalogue of the cartons featured in the exhibit is now available online.

Take a stroll with me along Quai Wilson and witness the power of the cartooning for peace!

ARAB SPRING 

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

AND THE WOMEN?

Photo credits to Amy Bergquist, staff attorney with The Advocates for Human Rights’ International Justice Program.

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