As the dust begins to settle over France’s darkest week, it is important that we show solidarity with our closest neighbours and rally behind our greatest right, the inalienable principle of ‘freedom of speech’. The tragic attacks on Charlie Hebdo are symbolic as much as they are heart breaking; ten cartoonists and journalists assassinated for pushing the boundaries of liberty.
Today, students of the University of Bath shared a moment of unity with our French colleagues, defiant against the terror a few individuals aimed to create. In Paris, hundreds of thousands will do the same, recognizing that a barbaric attack on freedom is an attack on all of us.
People have the right to criticise or even hate the work that Charlie Hebdo does. Indeed, many of their drawings have blurred the lines between satire and racism. They can be hated but they did not deserve to die because of this.
Asking whether ‘freedom of speech’ should be grounded with a certain element of restraint is a conversation as old as the right itself. But whilst this debate will continue, we should never silence those who choose to express themselves, whether we like what they say or not.
We should never forget the countless thousands, often forgotten, who die for this right. We should not allow ourselves to cower or sacrifice speech at the behest of a few. We should stand together with Charlie Hebdo, not because we agree with their work but rather the price they paid because of it.