French journalist offers powerful perspective on Charlie Hebdo

In only three days, 17 people have died—including journalists, cartoonists and policemen—from the recent sequence of attacks on the Paris newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which started Jan. 7.

In a short time, #jesuischarlie, translated #iamcharlie, invaded social networks. This movement was created to support the newspaper and freedom of speech.

But it was soon followed by a wave of #jenesuispascharlie, translated #iamnotcharlie, denouncing the controversial caricatures the newspaper publishes.

After reading the news, I decided to take Charlie Hebdo’s side, supporting freedom of speech.

I have read this newspaper before. The satirical newspaper uses black humor, so readers must not take what they see at face value.

Meanings are more subtle, which is something really common in France, unlike in the United States.

For example, Americans usually don’t understand my sarcastic jokes.

I noticed that, while the support has come directly from France, the wave against the newspaper has actually grown and developed in foreign countries.

I realize how much French humor is misunderstood and that the cultural aspect is key to understanding why French people want to save their freedom of speech.

In my home country, I have always felt there is no real taboo topic, such as how race or religion can be in the United States.

Since the French Revolution that overthrew the monarchy, keeping a real democracy where all citizens can express themselves has always been one of France’s main struggles.

Many detractors also accused the newspaper of hiding racism under the idea of freedom of speech.

But I wonder if we can really call a newspaper Islamophobic, or even racist, that caricatures everything in society: not only Muslims, but Catholics and Jews, and not only religions, but politics, ecology and economy.

The newspaper’s goal has never been to oppress a group, but to denounce a society, with all its aspects.

Of course the way to achieve this aim may not be best demonstrated here, but remember that French people love sarcasm.

And as a proverb back home says, “On peut rire de tout mais pas avec tout le monde,” translated “We can laugh about everything, but not with everybody.”

This debate will definitely not end soon, but my first concern, as a journalist, is to be sure that I will always be able to do my job without fear of being killed.

Whatever you write about, there will always be people disagreeing.

There are many pacific and efficient ways to express disagreement; it will never justify violence. Whether you agree with Charlie Hebdo’s editorial policy or not, the need to protect journalism and the pluralism of media is stronger to maintain the so-called democracy.

I am French, and I am Charlie for every journalist in the world.

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