Je suis Charlie… Are we, really?

This blog is posted by an individual who is one of the few who seek to challenge the blatant display of hypocrisy shown by some world leaders, in the name of commitment to press freedom, after the attack on the ´Charlie Hebdo´ office in Paris. The Indian Prime Minister too had condemned the incident calling it a “despicable attack”. However, he has strangely remained silent on several recent incidents in India where self-styled guardians of caste, religion, rituals and traditions are attacking writers and journalists. Take for example the harassment of Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, attacks on writers like Puliyur Murugesan and Dalit writer Durai Guna or the recent bomb attack on a Tamil TV channel, Puthai Talamurai”s, office for showing promos of a show debating the relevance of women wearing the “mangalsutra” (marriage symbol worn in the form of a locket). The Indian government has also not given any reaction to the hacking to death of Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy by Islamic fundamentalists.


Je suis Charlie… Are we, really?

By Satrajit Ghosh Chowdhury

“It´s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”

– Noel Coward, playwright.


This isn´t an article that mourns the death of the Charlie Hebdo journalists. Neither is this a piece that criticizes that particular religious sect whose action has led to this horrible consequence. However, this article criticizes the hypocrisy surrounding this heart – wrenching incident.


On 7th January, a group of extremists attacked the office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve of its journalists, including the editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier. French satirical journalism is famous for the practice of a free and an ideal form of expression, and Charlie Hebdo carried the same tradition, on its shoulders. Never bending down, to the threats and oppressions, which were aimed towards them.


Following the attacks, the French soil witnessed innumerable marches and demonstrations criticizing the event and raising slogans of Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie). The slogan echoed around the world with several leaders flying down to Paris to take part in an epic march to support press freedom and to fight against terrorism, the same leaders, whose very name suggests – HYPOCRISY. I get it; this event was a good opportunity for photo ops, meet some fascinating people and make a statement that even puts, United Nations to shame. It is true that attending this event was a necessity for these leaders to create a great PR image, diminishing the negative public image they had against them. Has it really been successful? Nah…


“Predators of press freedom”, is what the organization Reporters Without Borders (RWB) have called the leaders who took part in the 11th January march. Those leaders who have some of the strictest press censorship in their country walked hand in hand, the streets of Paris in support of “press freedom” and “free speech”. If I start writing about each of the leaders present there and their strange hypocrisy, I will exceed the word limit given to me; so I will stick to the ones whose taking part in this event doesn´t even disgust me anymore, it just makes me laugh. And to know about the others, Google them you will get enough links, to prove their crimes against journalism.


Turkey and Egypt, thou art the biggest deceivers of all. What can I say? Literally, I am afraid to say anything, God knows the next time anyone will see me; it will be in the Breaking News – Indian boy kidnapped and shot in Istanbul. Well, still I will have to take the chance. Turkey and Egypt are two of the lowest ranking (154th and 159th out of 180) countries in the Press Freedom Index tabulated by RWB. I mean come on; Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu imprisons more number of journalists than any other country in the world! As many as 60 journalists were fired and forced to resign just because they had covered the Occupy Gezi Protest, back in 2013. Oh, and Turkey blocked YouTube and Twitter in the lead up to the 2014 elections.


And then there is Egypt.”Et tu Brute?” Ranked as one of the deadliest country in the world for a journalist, Egypt´s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, held his head high and walked for the rights of the journalists´. In 2014, Egypt jailed more than 200 journalists, including three Al Jazeera journalists. Amnesia it is.


His Royal Highness King Abdullah II and Her Royal Highness Queen Rania represented Jordan in the march. Note that I have used HRH before their name, considering the fact they imprison anyone who insults them – mostly journalists. Apart from this, Jordan has blocked more than 260 websites and jails journalists, citing Anti-Terrorists law – Surprise!! Surprise!!


Following Jordan is another monarchy, Bahrain. Do you really think that it is okay to march with a mass of people in support of press freedom, when there is an anti-democratic monarchy in your country? Apparently it is. Bahrain´s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and Prince Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, took to the streets of Paris to show their support for press freedom – may be they should have begun their charity at home first. Bahrain has long been criticized in the world forum, for their extreme measures taken to curb any voice that criticizes the monarchy. Well it is okay, as long as you look good in the photos.


Now comes the unlikely duo, from the ´Promised Land´. Israeli Pr


ime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, showed their solidarity for press freedom when they locked hands with other leaders and marched in unison. Palestine has one of the lowest tolerances towards journalists who insult the President. Two journalists in 2014 were sentenced as they “insulted” the President by sharing his photo on facebook; one compared the photo with a popular TV serial villain and the other said that the President is a Real Madrid player. I mean, come on, be a sport.


Palestine´s long “friend”, Israel is not that far behind. Israel didn´t allow any reporters to cover the Gaza War of 2008 – 2009. In relation to this, the Foreign Press Association of Israel released a statement saying, “The unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world´s media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom and puts the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs.” So, does your dirty laundry really matter as long as you look principled on the international stage? As they say in French, oui.


Oh Russia, my lovely Russia; the makers of vodka and amazingly powerful Kalashnikovs. How could it be that we are talking of suppression and your name will not turn up? Well… here it is. Russia´s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, may have attended the march, but he is most probably unaware of Vladimir Putin´s “Russia”. Let me make him aware of what has been going on in his country. No less than 20 journalists have been murdered since Vladimir Putin first took office in 2000. Siberian journalist Dimitry Shipilov was arrested on 10th September, 2014 for (and I quote), “insulting a government servant in the course of his work.” Russia has imposed a law banning the so-called “Gay Propaganda”. Doesn’t sound like free speech, does it?


And the list goes on…


The presence of these representatives and many more, whose countries practice an artificial press freedom; is nothing but disrespecting the very essence of Charlie Hebdo who in its course has been able to hold in front of the world, a specimen of what a radical free speech and expression looks like. I am not Charlie; but the ones who are, live with the power of their courage, strength and unending determination. I do believe that our enlightenment lies in acknowledging and respecting what Charlie Hebdo is doing in the field of journalism. I do admit that I had never heard of Charlie Hebdo before this incident, and that was my loss. However, today I have utmost respect and admiration for this magazine. And this is where my indignation comes from; when I see these hypocrites, practically crashing this somber event.


Source: Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Elite Daily, Jerusalem Pos, New York Times.

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