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On Charlie Hebdo Attack and the Limit of Freedom of Speech

The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) – a human rights non-governmental organization based in Indonesia – strongly condemn the horrific attack during an editorial meeting at the Charlie Hebdo office on January 7, 2015, the attack led to the death of 12 people, including two policemen, and a dozen people were injured, four of them in very critical condition.

Charlie Hebdo is famous for its controversial depictions of the Prophet Muhammad and for reprinting derogatory cartoons about the prophet that had been published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2006. Charlie Hebdo, irreverent, crass and a foe to just about every religion, has been the target of Islamist rage for the better part of a decade. In 2011, Charlie Hebdo’s headquarter were destroyed in a firebomb attack, and the staff have received multiple threats. A police officer had been assigned to the chief editor, Stephane Charbonnier, for his protection, both were killed in the January 7 attack.

The attack is undeniable can be categorized as an attack against freedom of expression and freedom of the press – the two pillars of democracy. We stressed out that freedom of expression and opinion are cornerstones of any democratic society and those trying to divide communities on grounds of religion, ethnicity or any other reason must not be allowed to succeed.

We believe, it is the responsibility of French authorities to do all in their power to bring the perpetrators to justice quickly, also to guard against any backlash against Muslim or other groups due to following events such as: several mosques in France have been attacked since the attack on Charlie Hebdo; three grenades were thrown into a mosque in Le Mans during the night of January 7, one of which exploded without causing any injuries; shots were fired at a Muslim prayer room, which was empty at the time, on the same evening in Port-la-Nouvelle, southern France; and an explosion damaged the façade of a kebab restaurant close to a mosque in Villefranche-sur-Saone on the morning of January 8, without causing any casualties.

Through this letter, we also would like to remind French authorities to ensure that Muslims and others are not targeted for reprisals, and investigate any such incidents. The authorities should assess the security risks around mosques, Muslim prayer rooms, and other places that are vulnerable to such attacks across France, and provide reinforced security as necessary.

In addition, it is important for French government to enhance the effectiveness of Margin of Appreciation (a doctrine that the European Court of Human Rights has developed when considering whether a member state has breached the European Convention on Human Rights) especially in regards to consider a limitation upon freedom of expression that might be necessary for the protection of the citizens. We suggest that French government should be more aware toward the necessity of intervention on the freedom of expression (especially in the media) in order to create a more harmonious environment and to ensure that everyone got their right to live in peace and secure, without being weakened – especially by the attack – in exercising freedom of expression or any other human rights.

 

Jakarta, January 12th 2014
Sincerely,
Haris Azhar
Executive Coordinator of KontraS

*For further information please contact Ms.Ninies (niniesgreeners@gmail.com) or through KontraS Secretariat (kontras.1998@kontras.org)