Je suis Charlie. Two months after that phrase was used around the world to show solidarity with the victims of the January 7 attack against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, flowers are still left at the site of the killings on Rue Nicolas Appert in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. The street has reopened to traffic but the magazine's premises are still under police protection. The satirical weekly has not surrendered. Despite the deaths of its iconic cartoonists Charb, Wolinski, Cabu, and Tignous, it is back in the newsstands with its caustic tone intact.
What do Delhi, Beijing, and Villiers-sur-Marne have in common, but Ouagadougou does not? The first three recently banned access to films their governments deemed inappropriate. But a film festival in the fourth, the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa, is stepping up security to show an acclaimed but controversial movie about Islamic militancy in neighboring Mali.
The attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo has sent shock waves through France and beyond. Not only because 12 people have been killed in cold blood and many were wounded in what was the deadliest terrorist attack in France since 1961, when right wingers bombed a train killing 28 people. Not only because, after an attack in neighboring Belgium last May and French citizens joining extremist fighters in Syria and Iraq in recent months, the country feared something dramatic might happen soon, and that it eventually did.
In the course of a couple of hours on Wednesday, France was rocked by two judicial decisions with profound political repercussions for French politics and the press' right to publish. Just as a baffled public learned that former President Nicolas Sarkozy had been put under formal investigation for corruption and influence-peddling, France's highest court, the Cour de Cassation, upheld a July 2013 lower court ruling ordering the muckraking news website Mediapart to take down 72 articles related to "l'affaire Bettencourt." It's a fight destined to continue, with a founder of Mediapart vowing to take the free-press case to the European Court of Human Rights.
A new document on freedom of expression and opinion, adopted May 12 by the 28 foreign ministers of the European Union, presses nearly all the right buttons. Drawing its inspiration from international human rights norms as well as from the EU's treaties and its charter of fundamental rights, the document reaffirms the role of freedom of opinion and expression as "an essential foundation for democracy, rule of law, peace, stability, sustainable inclusive development, and participation in public affairs." It also makes a strong case for free and independent journalism. The ministers committed the EU and member states to the defense of journalists' freedom and safety, and endorsed watchdog journalism as a decisive factor in "uncovering abuses of power, shining a light on corruption, and questioning received opinion."
For the second time this year, the U.N. Security Council took up the issue of protection of journalists. In a discussion today sponsored by the French and Guatemalan delegations, and open to NGOs, speaker after speaker and country after country hammered home the same essential facts: The vast majority of journalists murdered around the world are local reporters working in their own country, covering human rights, corruption, conflict and politics. In nine out of ten of these murders, no one is ever prosecuted.
Two murdered journalists for the Africa service of Radio France Internationale, Ghislaine Dupont, 51, and Claude Verlon, 58, might have had a chance. They were abducted on November 2 in Kidal in northern Mali, but the vehicle their captors were driving suddenly broke down, according to news reports.
At midnight on Monday, the French news website Mediapart complied with the Versailles court of appeal which last week ordered the site to withdraw articles referring to the Bettencourt recordings--the secret tapings of Liliane Bettencourt, the richest woman in France, by her butler. Mediapart as well as the newsweekly Le Point had been sued for violation of privacy by the Bettencourt family and by the L'Oréal heiress' legal tutor and fund manager, Patrice de Maistre. Le Point withdrew its articles on Friday.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.