willems5_FRANCOIS GUILLOTPOOLAFP via Getty Images_charliehebdomemorial Francois Guillot/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The Demonization of Journalists Must End

Violence against journalists, and the daily barrage of verbal attacks on them from some political leaders, represent an assault on an essential pillar of democracy. One way to fight back is a stronger public defense of journalism’s value to society, including greater emphasis on ending impunity for attacks on its practitioners.

AMSTERDAM – Five years ago this month, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi stormed the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and, in a nightmare lasting just minutes, killed 12 people. In the days that followed, millions marched in France and elsewhere to express solidarity with the murdered journalists.

For Europeans, the Charlie Hebdo killings represented the first mass attack on journalists close to home. #JeSuisCharlie (“I am Charlie”) became one of the most popular Twitter hashtags ever. Press freedom was trending.

Since then, however, the fight to defend journalistic freedom has flagged, and public mobilization has proved to be fleeting – including in the case of Charlie Hebdo. In January 2019, the magazine’s staff complained in an editorial that people no longer wanted to hear about the shootings. “Perhaps you should move on!” they were reportedly told.

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