Journalists need reader support, end of violence: 1 lesson from “Charlie Hebdo” attacks

Journalists need the support of readers, and everyone needs to support freedom of expression — that’s a lesson everyone must be reminded of in light of the Wednesday attack on the “Charlie Hebdo” satirical magazine.

The massacre was insane — no person, journalist or otherwise, should have to fear death in response to publishing a cartoon — but the response has been inspiring: A Sunday rally drew more than 1 million people who condemned terrorist activity while voicing support for free expression. The magazine was targeted by extremists because it has published cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad.

The world’s attention must stay on this issue and push for protection of journalism, journalists and free expression.

The Northern Star has seen just how helpful that support may be: In 2006, the Editorial Board published 12 controversial cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad. The decision to print was made to better serve and inform the Star’s readers, and it was a decision not made lightly.

Some readers wrote in support of the publication of the cartoons while other readers expressed disappointment in the Editorial Board’s decision. In the end, people of all opinions used their right to freely express themselves and provide food for thought to the Star’s readers. The Northern Star staff was never threatened in response to printing the cartoons.

The attack on “Charlie Hebdo” stands in stark contrast to what happened at the Northern Star.

Of the 12 people killed during the assault on the satirical magazine, eight were journalists of some form: editors, writers, cartoonists.

The murders of journalists is nothing new: Almost 90 journalists and media workers were killed in 2014. This is unacceptable.

Journalism is a cornerstone of Democracy: It is necessary as it acts as a watchdog role, providing investigation and analysis. To cite a famous example, without the Washington Posts’ Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Americans may never have found out about corruption and illegal activity in the Nixon administration. But, journalism isn’t just reporting the news: Some journalists use columns, cartoons and editorials to share their views with readers and engage readers in thinking about current and past events.

A person being killed in response to that work — which amounts to an attack on freedom of expression, a key tenet of Democracy — should disgust everyone.


Today’s growing violence towards journalists is not because of the lack of legislation protecting them, but the lack of enforcement of existing legislation.

The problem can be seen in the numbers: There have been no convictions for 90 percent of all murders of journalists in the last 10 years, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. This means out of 370 murdered journalists, 333 did not get justice.

Not only are those numbers an injustice to the men and women who work tirelessly to disclose the truth, but they are also an injustice to the people who deserve to know it.

The Northern Star Editorial Board encourages its readers to support a safe environment for a free press in the United States so the world may follow suit. They can do so by pressuring state and federal governments to create and uphold shield laws that protect the anonymity of sources and to discourage the detainment of journalists covering protests.

Beyond the United States, readers can lobby world leaders to hold government and non-government actors accountable for violence against journalists or for failing to investigate their deaths in accordance with Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions and a 2013 U.N. resolution to ensure the safety of journalists.

Most importantly, the Northern Star Editorial Board implores its readers to stay informed and not become victims to the tyrants of the world who wish to lead people into darkness rather than the light.