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Je suis Charlie

Disclaimer: the following is an opinion piece about recent tragic events in France, if you are after tasty treats please come back soon!

I’m not sure if this is the place to publish this, but as it is somewhere dedicated to my love for France and French culture, it seems as good a place as any. When I turned on the French news yesterday morning I was greeted by a speech about the strength of la république and its foundations – liberté, fraternité, égalité. Urgh. As I got ready for work, I rolled my eyes at the overwhelming patriotism of President Hollande’s speech, reminded of some of the Sarko speeches we had to analyse in French culture at uni. Then I realised why – and suddenly, the reminder of the strengths of la patrie all made sense. Merci, Monsieur Hollande.

The events in Paris on Wednesday were a brutal and tragic violation of free speech in the name of religious extremism. As a journalist, I was shocked by the massacre of 12 people who were just doing their job. Sadly, the  8 journalists killed will be added to the ever-growing list of journos who are killed each year for trying to do their job. This is not good enough, and it must be stopped. In December, Reporters Without Borders published a roundup of violence committed against journalists in 2014. Last year saw 66 journalists killed, 119 kidnapped, 178 imprisoned and 138 flee their country. It’s a journalist’s fundamental responsibility to speak truth to power – whether civil or religious – and this is what Charlie Hebdo did, in their own satirical way.

Reflecting on the Charlie Hebdo attacks now, some things have become abundantly clear. These are:

-That these attacks must not be used to justify further violence targeting Muslim people. People need to be tolerant, now more than ever. Thanks largely to political interference, there is already a strong culture of Islamophobia in France (as there is in Australia), and this must not be aggravated by the attacks.

-That we must be critical of everything we read and hear. Yes, certain Australian politicians will be strutting around inciting fear and issuing travel warnings. Think critically, engage properly with the information and keep informed on the topic. Fear is what terrorists aim to achieve. As a side note, don’t listen to politicians who try to use terrorist attacks to justify xenophobic policy. Nothing good has come of Sarko’s ban the burqa campaign, or Morrison’s inhumane treatment of refugees deported to Papua New Guinea and Nauru, or Marine Le Pen’s batshit crazy hate speeches targeting the Muslim community in France. I really, really hope that the attacks don’t trigger more of this xenophobia, but sadly, they probably will. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept it.

-We have to stay positive. Thankfully, rallies in Paris and around the world are showing that we are. Shows of support from crowds of thousands of people holding up signs showing “We are not afraid”, the #JeSuisCharlie hashtags trending on social media and the outpouring of support from people around the world has shown that the terrorists have already lost. The Charlie Hebdo massacre was a catastrophic violation of free speech and civil liberties. But it is only going to make our voices louder.

Je suis Charlie. Vive la France. Vive la liberté.

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