Paris attack can't curb free speech - UK press

2015-01-08 08:08
A victim is evacuated on a stretcher after armed gunmen stormed the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, leaving 12 people dead. (Martin Bureau, AFP)

A victim is evacuated on a stretcher after armed gunmen stormed the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, leaving 12 people dead. (Martin Bureau, AFP)

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London - Britain's newspapers rallied behind their French counterparts on Thursday following the horrific terror attack on magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead, urging them not to restrain their renowned spirit of provocation.

But they also called for a measured response, fearing the rise of Islamophobia and the far right.

Both the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph ran with the frontpage headline "The War on Freedom" along with a photograph of the attack showing two attackers pointing their guns at a policeman lying on the pavement.

In the same vein, The Times led with "Attack on Freedom" on its front page while the Guardian called it an "Assault on Democracy".

Right to publish

The Guardian leapt to the defence of the controversial magazine, which angered Muslims by publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, saying there was something "distinctly French about the form of offensiveness that Charlie Hebdo revelled in".

"Radicals, as the murdered journalists assuredly saw themselves, have always mocked Christian humbug, just as Charlie Hebdo did, and never seen any principled reason to show more deference to other faiths," said its editorial.

The Financial Times earlier fended off criticism after publishing an opinion piece by Europe Editor Tony Barber, which called Charlie Hebdo's provocation of Muslims "stupid" and "foolish".

But its editorial insisted that journalists must speak their minds, regardless of whom it may offend.

"Charlie Hebdo may be a very different publication to our own, but the courage of its journalists - and their right to publish - cannot be placed in doubt. A free press is worth nothing if its practitioners do not feel free to speak."

Unconscionable threats

The Times also defended the right to criticise Islamists, saying they were prime targets "precisely because of their unconscionable threats and spurious claim to special status."

But it warned that French President Francois Hollande may find himself under pressure from the far right to "fight fire with fire".

"If France can fight it with unity instead, he will not have to," it said. "We are all Charlie now."

The Daily Telegraph's editorial also feared the fallout of the attack.

"A new book by the French author Michel Houellebecq, which provided the front cover for this week's Charlie Hebdo, envisages an election in which France's mainstream parties join forces to back a Muslim candidate to stop [Front National leader] Marine Le Pen becoming president," it said.

"In the event, the new head of state introduces Sharia law to France. Such paranoia can easily be stoked by the murders in Paris. It needs to be resisted, otherwise the terrorists really will have won."

Read more on:    france  |  paris shooting  |  charlie hebdo
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