More than 100 French media organisations have signed and published an open letter defending freedom of speech against threats from “terrorists and states”.
The tribune was released after a member of staff at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo – targeted by Islamist gunmen who killed 12 people in January 2015 – was forced to leave her home after receiving death threats.
The open letter, titled “Together, we are defending freedom”, was initiated by the paper’s director, Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau.
“It has never happened before that the media, which often defend divergent points of view and whose manifesto is not the usual form of expression, have decided together to address audiences and fellow citizens in such a solemn manner. If we do so, it is because we felt it was crucial to alert you to one of the most fundamental values of our democracy: your freedom of expression,” it read.
“Today, in 2020, some of you are threatened with death on social networks when you expose singular opinions. Media outlets are openly targeted by international terrorist organisations. States put pressure on French journalists ‘guilty’ of publishing critical articles.
“The violence of words has gradually turned into physical violence. Over the past five years, women and men in our country have been murdered by fanatics because of their origins or their opinions. Journalists and cartoonists have been executed to stop them writing and drawing freely forever.
“It is the entire legal edifice that has been built over more than two centuries to protect your freedom of expression that is under attack, as never before in the last 75 years.”
The letter was signed by national, regional and local newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations.
It concludes: “The laws of our country provide each of you with a framework that allows you to speak, write and draw as in few other places in the world. It is up to you to take it.
“Yes, you have the right to express your opinions and criticise those of others, whether political, philosophical or religious, as long as it is within the limits set by law. Let us recall here, in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, which has paid for this freedom with the blood of those who worked there, that in France, the crime of blasphemy does not exist.
“Some of us are believers and may naturally be shocked by blasphemy. Nevertheless, they unreservedly associate themselves with this initiative. Because, in defending the freedom to blaspheme, it is not blasphemy that we are defending, but freedom.”