The shootings at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris on Wednesday were the “worst attack on journalism, satirists, the press, and all free thinkers in society that we have seen in recent times.”
This is according to Jonathan Shapiro, a cartoonist better known as Zapiro.
The attacks on the satirical paper reportedly killed 12 people on Wednesday, including two police officers. By Wednesday afternoon Parisian police had launched a manhunt for the shooters.
Shapiro said the shootings were not only an attack on the media and free press, but on French society, and secular societies more broadly.
Shapiro said two possibilities could arise from the shootings, and neither situation was desirable. The first situation was one in which French politics tilted to the right.
Shapiro said this was also a risk in countries where Islamophobia is prevalent. The other scenario involved the effect the shootings might have on freedom of expression. “I hope that it doesn’t have a further chilling effect on satirists, commentators and journalists; any free thinkers in society. But I’m afraid that scenario is probably inevitable.”
Shapiro said it was immediately necessary for governments to condemn the attack “unequivocally”, and for newspapers, journalists and the general populace to offer support to the staff and families of the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
It was necessary for society to offer “unequivocal support for the freedoms that Charlie Hebdo stands for”. “Beyond that, in the medium term, I think that political leaders, corporate leaders and corporations in general should really start standing up more than they do against the narrowing of freedom of expression.
“In SA we see some alarming trends among politicians attacking media for all sorts of reasons. That trend is not just here. Corporations like Google, Yahoo, Twitter, all social media and information technology media should stand up more assertively against the sort of shutting down of freedom of speech that happens. A general assertion of media freedom would help the broader populace to really understand that media freedom is indivisible.”
Shapiro said it was important that Muslim leaders in France and around the world make their support for media freedom known. “Society in general and hopefully Muslim leaders in particular need to say that this is not what Islam is about and that this is not supported by the Islamic faith, to prevent any further spread of Islamophobia,” Shapiro said.