“Freedom of Speech, But” – Charlie Hebdo Edition

Meet the journalists who abhor free speech

Last Thursday, a court in Istanbul sentenced Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya, both columnists for Turkey’s opposition newspaper, Cumhuriyet, to two years in prison for “inciting hatred and public enmity via media.”

Karan and Cetinkaya were charged last April after republishing the cover of the Charlie Hebdo survivors’ issue,which depicted an Islamic man (presumed to be the Prophet Muhammad) holding a sign reading “Je suis Charlie,” under the headline “Tout est pardonné” (French for “All is Forgiven”).

Charlie Hebdo Survivors Issue

Thursday’s decision is just the latest in a Euro-wide crackdown on free speech that began the week immediately following the Paris shootings, when French police arrested 54 people on suspicion of espousing “hate speech, anti-Semitism” and statements “glorifying terrorism.”

Since then, a discouraging number of journalists have come out against Charlie Hebdo and the “Je suis Charlie” movement.¹ Keeping with my April 25 item on the National Union of Students’ non-committal position on free speech, below is a collection of quotes from those who claim to “support freedom of speech, but” [enter preferred social/political cause here].


I support freedom of speech, but I do not feel that hate speech should be protected– Kitty Stryker (via Ravishly)

Everyone has the right to freedom of speech. But, with every right comes a responsibility – Khathu Mashau (via Nunnovation)

Charlie Hebdo might have stood for freedom of speech, but it was involved in violence against Muslims– Dan Allon (via The Forward)

All states have the obligation to protect freedom of speech, but this freedom must be balanced against human dignity – Karen Rosenbaum (via Thought Catalog)

The recent attack on Charlie Hebdo was not an attack on so-called freedom of speech, but the misuse of free expressions and wrong depiction of ideas – Suliman Ali (via highway)

The staff members certainly have freedom of speech, but just because something is legal does not make it morally just – Elizabeth Harwood (via The Feminist Wire)

Millions of people worldwide are proclaiming the right to freedom of speech, but what if that speech is offensive to certain religions or ethnic groups? – Sarah Nagel (via Global Currents)

I’m utterly in favour of freedom of speech, but I also believe that the great tradition of satire where a cartoonist can literally draw a line – Nabila Ramdani (via Is the BBC Biased?)

Caricatures about Muslims in such an unequal situation have nothing to do with freedom of speech, but with a political violence masquerading as freedom of speech – Frédéric Neyrat (via the Wisonsin State Journal)

As a journalist for more than 30 years I certainly understand freedom of speech, but too many of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that I’ve seen are way past the edge and venture with glee into blatant racism and just plain cultural ugliness – Keith A. Owens (via The Blue Route)

¹Last April, an open letter protesting PEN America’s decision to bestow its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo claimed over 200 signatures, including those of several prominent writers.

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