Je suis Charlie

2015-01-11 15:00

Last year 61 journalists around the world were either killed in the line of duty or because of the work they were doing.

This was the highest in many years, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

A further 221 were jailed by governments wanting to silence their voices, a figure the CPJ says is the highest in 24 years.

In the past 12 months, governments have jailed artists, musicians, activists and ordinary citizens for “insulting” religions, rulers and security forces.

Some of these included Tunisian rapper Weld El 15, who posted his song titled The Police are Dogs on the internet. Earlier this month, Kenyan blogger Alan Wadi Okenga was given a yearlong prison sentence for calling Uhuru Kenyatta an “adolescent president”.

By far the most horrific attack on freedom of speech was the massacre of 12 employees of the Paris-based Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine.

That such incidents are still taking place and escalating in the 21st century is hugely disconcerting.

This is an age in which the human race is supposed to be more enlightened, a lot more tolerant of divergent thought and belief, and much more thick-skinned when it comes to dealing with offence.

In South Africa we have worked hard to create a culture of openness. Our Constitution and laws protect and promote freedom of expression, but also provide a framework for this right not to be abused.

Although there have been attempts to infringe on this space through regulation, intimidation and mob rule, South African society has stood firm and insisted it wants to be free.

South Africans should entrench this culture of openness. We should speak up for those who do not enjoy the freedom we have and those whose freedom is under attack.

Je suis Charlie.

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