Tag Archives: Charlie Hebdo

Matters of Media

What’s new in media matters: Charlie Hebdo; the state of American media; attacks on the press; and Jon Stewart’s next mission.

Protesters marched for freedom of expression worldwide after the January slaughter of journalists and police by extremists at Charlie Hebdo's Paris office. Above, protesters in Vancouver carry "Je Suis" signs for Ahmed, a Muslim police officer killed, and "Charlie." © Deborah Jones 2015

Protesters marched for freedom of expression worldwide after the January slaughter of journalists and police by extremists at Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office.  © Deborah Jones 2015

The illustrations of Muhammad, which sparked such incendiary controversy by Muslims whose faith prohibits images of their prophet, may have run their course in the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. Extremists apparently protesting the illustrations slaughtered 10 journalists and two police officers outside Charlie Hebdo’s Paris headquarters in January, sparking global support for freedom of expression. 

Now cartoonist Renald Luzier, whose pen name is “Luz,” told French magazine les inRocks  he is no longer interested in creating images of Muhammad. He said he has grown tired of drawing Muhammad, as he had grown tired of drawing previous subjects. The statement was newsworthy (see BBC report here) because Charlie Hebdo is again controversial news: PEN America’s decision to honour Charlie Hebdo, with a Freedom of Expression Courage Award next month, sparked a protest by two dozen writers.

The protesting writers, including Michael Ondaatje and Joyce Carol Oates, wrote they support freedom of expression but the honour is unwarranted because Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons “intended to cause further humiliation and suffering” for already-marginalized Muslims. PEN America disagreed in a rebuttal, Rejecting the Assasin’s Veto — but added, “we are  very privileged to live in an environment where strong and diverse views on complex issues such as these can take place both respectfully and safely.”


The Journalism Project of the Pew Research Center in the United States this week released its 12th annual report, State of the News Media 2015. There is good, bad, and ugly. A lot of ugly. Highlights:

  • Mobile devices trump desktop computers for the audience of digital news media – but only desktop users linger.
  • Financially the newspaper industry continues to bleed. 
  • Local and network TV enjoyed greater ad revenue and audience; cable companies suffered.
  • Digital outlets continue to face financial and journalistic challenges — though a few are thriving.

The Good (?): “Digital news entrants and experimentation, whether from longtime providers or new, are on the one hand now so numerous and varied that they are difficult to keep track of. On the other hand, the pace of technological evolution and the multiplicity of choices – from platforms to devices to pathways – show no sign of slowing down.”   Plus, podcasting is booming. That’s something. 

The Bad:  More Americans receive journalism in quick hits via mobile devices. (Oh, look: SQUIRREL!!!)

The Ugly: Tech industries, especially the top five companies, are eating journalism’s lunch. “Five technology companies took in half of all display ad revenue, with Facebook alone accounting for 24%.”  Plus: “Nearly half of Web-using adults report getting news about politics and government in the past week on Facebook, a platform where influence is driven to a strong degree by friends and algorithms. ” 

Who cares? What does it matter? Pew’s Journalism Project offers a succinct answer: 

“Americans’ changing news habits have a tremendous impact on how and to what extent our country functions within an informed society. So too does the state of the organizations producing the news and making it available to citizens day in and day out ….”  

“Understanding the industry in turn allows researchers to ask and answer important questions about the relationship between information and democracy – whether this means exploring the degree to which like-minded consumers gravitate to the same sources, the opportunities consumers have or don’t have to stay on top of the activities of their elected officials, or how connected residents feel to their local communities.”

Click here to read State of the News Media 2015 on the Pew site.


© Greg Locke 2013

© Greg Locke 2013

This week the Committee to Protect Journalists released a major report, Attacks on the Press. Citing slaughters, beatings and imprisonments, from Pakistan to Paraguay, Paris to Egypt, journalists face danger, wrote Christiane Amanpour in a foreward. “From government surveillance and censorship to computer hacking, from physical attacks to imprisonment, kidnapping, and murder, the aim is to limit or otherwise control the flow of information–an increasingly complicated effort, with higher and higher stakes.”

On Thursday, the United Nations appointed Amanpour, an American journalist, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Freedom of Expression. The issue needs an ambassador. As Amanpour notes in the CPJ report, dangers to journalism “are expanding in seemingly every direction, morphing in new and disturbing ways. At stake are not only journalists’ lives but also the public’s ability to know what’s going on around them.”

Click here to read Attacks on the Press on the CPJ site.  (And in case you missed it,  Reporters Without Borders/Reporters sans Frontieres released its 2014 World Press Freedom Index. earlier this year. Finland again ranked first for press freedom, with Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Austria, Canada, Jamaica and Estonia also making the top ten.  Least free are Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea. France is 38th, the United States 49th, Russia 152nd, Iran 173rd and China 176th.)


Last but not least, there may be an answer to America’s intense speculation about what its favourite and arguably most effective “journalist” — comedian Jon Stewart — will do when he retires from The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Reportedly Stewart is swapping incisive political commentary about humanity for saving animals, on a New Jersey farm his family recently purchased as an animal refuge (Philly.com story here).

And on that note, here is a photo of my own rescue cat. Because. apparently, catz are what media are for these days.

Poppy the rescue cat, 1985-2006

Poppy, 1985-2005

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Je Suis Charlie


The web site of Charlie Hebdo was draped in a virtual black flag Wednesday, with a link to a pdf file displaying the words “I am Charlie” in numerous languages.

Scorecard, Wednesday, Jan. 7: Pen – 0. Sword – 12, and counting.

Masked gunmen with AK47s and a rocket launcher killed at least 10 journalists and two police officers early Wednesday at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper that had been under police protection since extremists firebombed it in 2011.

 French leader François Hollande  declared a national day of mourning for Thursday. The hashtag #jesuischarlie flooded social media. World leaders spoke out in solidarity.

Crowds flocked to Place de la République in Paris in the evening, many people holding up pens. The web site of Charlie Hebdo was draped in a virtual black flag Wednesday, with a link to a pdf file displaying the words “I am Charlie” in numerous languages.

World leaders expressed outrage, support for France, and in some cases, also support for press rights. It was a rare outpouring of support for journalists and freedom of expression which, literally and metaphorically, have been under fire on all fronts and in most countries lately.
“This is an attack against freedom of expression and freedom of the press – the two pillars of democracy,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who, ironically, was in the midst of a New Year visit to the UN Correspondents Association.

From the United States, Barack Obama called  the shooting “horrific” while Secretary of State John Kerry said, in French, “Tous les Américains au côté de la France.” British prime minister David Cameron tweeted, “”We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press.”

Reporters Without Borders appealed to all media outlets globally to republish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons thought to offend the extremists. “Freedom of information cannot shrink in the face of barbarity and yield to blackmail by those who assail (our) democracy and what  (France) 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,” said RSF in a statement.

One of the last cartoons drawn by Charb, killed in Wednesday’s slaughter by extremists. “Still no terrorist attacks in France,” it says. “Wait! We have until the end of January to present our wishes,” says the man with an AK47. Photo via Twitter, fair use.

It’s no coincidence that on the same day a dystopian novel by Michel Houellebecq, Submission, was released in France, amid a media fire storm. 

“The book’s publication could not come at a more sensitive time as France is currently undergoing a fierce debate on Islam and national identity,” noted  an analysis on the French site France 24.

Charlie Hebdo was one of many outlets to feature the book.

Submission, said numerous French media outlets, portrayed a France years in the future ruled by Sharia law and a Muslim government. In the world of Submission Muslims would eliminate France’s secular focus on human rights, captured in the official national motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, coined during the French revolution. 

France takes human rights seriously, and has a long tradition of accepting and even celebrating satire. It was in France the famous quote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” was coined, attributed to a biographer of French enlightenment writer Voltaire, the pen name of François-Marie Arouet.

One of the journalists killed by the extremists Wednesday was Charlie Hebdo editor Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier. “A drawing has never killed anyone,” he  told Der Spiegel in 2012.  “Extremists don’t need any excuses. We are only criticizing one particular form of extremist Islam, albeit in a peculiar and satirically exaggerated form. We are not responsible for the excesses that happen elsewhere, just because we practice our right to freedom of expression within the legal limits.”

“I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees,” Charbonnier told Le Monde in 2012, in a story about the firebombing of Charlie Hebdo by extremists in 2011, after it published a caricature of the Prophet Muhammed. 

As the world learned through the bloody, brutal, irrational, self-defeating and continuing aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the clear and present danger now is the fanatical attack on Charlie Hebdo will boost fanatics of all stripes.
Extremism by fanatics, the latest of whom claim allegiance to the self-branded “Islamic State,” has been met by extremist xenophobia and bigotry aimed at Muslims in general. Carnage in the names of religion and “war on terror,” both, continues in world war zones, far from the light of publicity now shining on Charlie Hebdo. And if recent history is a guide, the reaction can easily backfire on all of the rights cited today in response to the Charlie Hebdo killings. Since 9/11, press freedoms of all kinds have been amongst the collateral damage in the “War on Terror.”
Warned UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: “If this attack is allowed to feed discrimination and prejudice, it will be playing straight into the hands of extremists whose clear aim is to divide religions and societies. With xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments already on the rise in Europe, I am very concerned that this awful, calculated act will be exploited by extremists of all sorts.”
Who will keep a cool head after Wednesday’s slaughter by gunmen reportedly screaming, triumphantly, “Allahu Akbar?”


Further reading:

Freedom of Expression, Freedom House: https://freedomhouse.org/issues/freedom-expression#.VK2lEt6kb8s

An image gallery of the attacks, Le Monde: http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/portfolio/2015/01/07/en-images-l-attentat-de-charlie-hebdo_4550797_3224.html

Wikipedia page for Charlie Hebdo, including backgrounder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Hebdo

Ban outraged by ‘horrendous and cold-blooded’ attack on French magazine: United Nations news release: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49741&Cr=UNESCO&Cr1=#.VK2JBN6kb8s

World leaders condemn attack on France’s Charlie Hebdo, France 24: http://www.france24.com/en/20150107-charlie-hebdo-paris-attack-journalist-terror-/

‘Charlie Hebdo’ Editor in Chief: ‘A Drawing Has Never Killed Anyone,’ by Stefan Simons, Der Spiegel, September, 2012

A “Charlie Hebdo”, on n’a “pas l’impression d’égorger quelqu’un avec un feutre,” Le Monde archive:  http://www.lemonde.fr/actualite-medias/article/2012/09/20/je-n-ai-pas-l-impression-d-egorger-quelqu-un-avec-un-feutre_1762748_3236.html#jsi567twGzKCWauk.99

RWB APPEALS TO MEDIA OUTLETS TO PUBLISH CHARLIE HEBDO CARTOONS, Reporters san Frontiers/Reporters Without Borders:  http://en.rsf.org/france-rwb-appeals-to-media-outlets-to-07-01-2015,47454.html

1101 Journalists Killed since 1992: Committee to Protect Journalists report: http://www.cpj.org/killed/ 




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