Charlie Hebdo shooting ‘a barbaric act against media freedom’

European Federation of Journalists, Amnesty International, PES dub Charlie Hebdo massacre a dark day for freedom of expression

A special 'Shari'a' edition of Charlie Hebdo. The satirical newspaper took on all sacred cows.
A special 'Shari'a' edition of Charlie Hebdo. The satirical newspaper took on all sacred cows.

The ‘massacre’ that took place Wednesday at the premises of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris was a barbaric act of violence against journalists and media freedom, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) said.

The Institute of Maltese Journalists also joined in a condemnation of the attack, echoing the EFJ statement.

According to the latest media reports, twelve people were killed in the shooting; among them, nine are journalists and two are policemen. Media reported that at least two armed, hooded gunmen have taken part in the shooting at the office of Charlie Hebdo at 11:30am Wednesday.

The EFJ expressed its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims. Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, the EFJ President, will travel to Paris to honour the victims.

The EFJ condemned this barbaric act of violence against journalists and media freedom. It has called on the French authorities to make every effort to punish this horrific crime. “This is not only an attack on journalists but also an attack on the freedom of the media. Journalists today are facing greater dangers and threats,” Blicher Bjerregaard said.

Amnesty International described the attack as a chilling assault on freedom of expression.

“This is a dark day for freedom of expression and a vibrant press culture. But above all, it is an appalling human tragedy,” said Stephan Oberreit, Director of Amnesty International France.

“It is an atrocity that sought to kill journalists, suppress freedom of expression and sow fear. It must be utterly condemned and the French authorities must ensure all those responsible are brought to justice in a fair trial. Journalists under threat must be protected and allowed to carry out their work without fear of deadly violence.”

Charlie Hebdo, a weekly satirical newspaper based in Paris, has faced controversy in the past for its publication of cartoons deemed to be insulting to Islam.

In the wake of today’s attack, the French government is convening a security meeting and has raised the country’s terror alert to the highest level.

Amnesty International will continue to monitor the situation and the government response.

In reaction to the attack, Party of European Socialists president Sergei Stanishev stated: “Today is a dark day for freedom of the press. This dreadful attack is a terrible blow to democracy, and our thoughts are with the victims, their families and all the others caught up in this tragic attack. The perpetrators of these cowardly murders must be caught and brought before justice without delay.”

Stanishev offered his full support and sympathy to the French people, and to all journalists underlining that, “freedom of speech and press are the foundation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. These freedoms define our pluralistic society, a peaceful coexistence between communities where there is no place for extremism or fanaticism. Today, more than ever, we must make clear that we will not allow our democracy to be dictated by terrorist acts.”

Charlie Hebdo was also the target of a firebomb attack in 2011, after the magazine published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

In 2014, 118 journalists and media workers died for doing their jobs. In Europe, 9 journalists were killed and they were taken place mostly in Ukraine.

The EFJ reiterated its call on national governments, the European Union and intergovernmental organisations to intensify their efforts in ensuring the protection of journalists in Europe.