Belfast Telegraph

Why the Belfast Telegraph won't reprint Charlie Hebdo

Today French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo will publish three million copies of its latest edition. Its front cover will bear a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad and it is an image which will be widely shown throughout the world.

It is the magazine's response to the ghastly atrocity visited upon it when two Islamic fanatics shot dead members of its staff, including its editor and four of its cartoonists.

The magazine is retaliating with the only weapons at its disposal, the pen and the creative satirical minds of its contributors.

This newspaper has taken the difficult decision not to republish Charlie Hebdo's cover. That decision is not a comment on the cover and we believe that the magazine has every right to exercise its freedom of speech in this way.

But context is everything. Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine which prods and provokes its targets in the establishment and the institutions of the West in an edgy way that newspapers like the Belfast Telegraph do not seek to mimic.

However, we are just as passionate in our defence of freedom of expression, as has been demonstrated continuously throughout Northern Ireland's troubled history.

In 1976 Belfast Telegraph employee Joseph Patton lost his life when the IRA blew up this newspaper's Royal Avenue offices. The next day we demonstrated that we would not and could not be silenced as we produced a four-page edition, nicknamed the Penny Marvel.

Like Charlie Hebdo, we continued to show terrorists that freedom is too valuable to surrender to them.

The point is that all publications in democratic societies challenge orthodoxies, the powerful and even the terrorists in their own way. There may be many who feel that Charlie Hebdo's way is crass or insensitive and they are entitled to hold that view.

But the proper response is to then ignore the publication, decline to buy it and if enough people did that then it would cease to exist.

Yet such publications must have the freedom to challenge or provoke debate within the laws of the country in which they operate. That is what freedom of expression means and it is a freedom we all must band together to preserve.

Charlie Hebdo is right to have its say again today but that does not mean we all have to repeat the same words or images.

Read more:

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