Je Suis Charlie: Defending Freedom of Expression Depends on All of Us

When I heard about the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo I was speechless. I have been writing about press freedom and violence against journalists for half a decade, but in the wake of these killings words failed me.

Words did not fail others however.

Within an hour of hearing about the attack I saw the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie gaining traction online. A few hours after that, journalists in newsrooms around the globe began posting pictures of themselves holding Je Suis Charlie signs. And by that night people were in the streets from Paris to San Francisco chanting “Je Suis Charlie.”

Je Suis Charlie.
I Am Charlie.

Sharing this phrase is an act of solidarity. But it also carries a special weight because today we are all Charlie in a way that has never been so true before. Thanks to the Internet and new technology more people than ever are committing acts of journalism, bearing witness, and holding the powerful to account through media of their own making.

In his statement on the killings, Robert Mahoney, Deputy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists said, “Journalists must now stand together to send the message that such murderous attempts to silence us will not stand.” Peter Goodwin, President of the PEN American Center echoed that sentiment in a statement saying “writers and artists around the world must unite to protect freedom of expression.”

As new threats to freedom of expression emerge we need writers and artists, journalists and publishers standing together and forcefully opposing these attacks.

But that’s not enough.

Today, I am Charlie. Today you are too.

Today we need to understand that the rights of the press are our rights. Attacks on the press are attacks on us. They are attacks on our right to create, to critique, to cover our communities. Attacks on the press are also attacks on our right to know, to understand, to debate.

In the 2013 documentary “Killing the Messenger: The Deadly Cost of News” French journalist Florence Aubenas says, “The press is us who write it and you who read it. Defending press freedom is defending yourself.”

Je Suis Charlie.
I Am Charlie.

It is not enough to leave it to journalists to defend freedom of expression. This is our fight too.

When everyone has a printing press in their pockets we need everyone to be advocates for press freedom. We need to educate, support and mobilize a larger community of people who see themselves increasingly not as consumers but as co-creators.

Freedom of expression is not limited to professional journalists and writers. It is about our common right to make media and commit acts of journalism.

We share these rights and we share the responsibility to defend them.

Nous Sommes Charlie.
We Are Charlie.

Photo by Valentina Calà, used via creative commons

Both photos in this post were taken by Valentina Calà and used via creative commons. 


  1. Ana says:

    It is sad that it takes acts of great violence for us to take a stand on something so important as the freedom of expression.
    I agree with you that we should not leave it to journalists to defend it. In fact, we are the vessel for it, much more than journalists, in my opinion.

  2. historyworld6060 says:

    Freedom of speech. I am charlie.

  3. allibarnes says:

    Reblogged this on This Messy Mind and commented:
    I am not eloquent enough to express how I feel about recent events. My thoughts are not quite in order over it all. But this is beautiful. And honest. And right.
    I am Charlie.
    We are Charlie.

  4. Reblogged this on inexplicablyinsane and commented:
    A post about the attacks in France on Charlie Hebdo. It’s important to remember that freedom of speech is a necessary right to uphold and defend, not only for bloggers but for everyone who needs a voice.

  5. Getmobetter says:

    In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “An injustice Anywhere is a threat to injustice Everywhere”… Thanks for this post. Best!

  6. In my book, The Soaring Spirit, I explore the issue of press freedoms, and the plight of Cuban journalists jailed for doing their jobs. I qualified as a journalist from Griffith College Dublin in 2006. Je suis Charlie.

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