Humour and satire can be touchy subjects for some. Being the subject of a joke or prank sometimes has an uncomfortable sting, especially when the target cannot laugh at themselves.
Mash journalism and humour together, throw in a dash of political or religious gun powder and you’ve got a recipe for disaster — at least in the case of Charlie Hebdo last week in Paris when masked gunmen stormed the offices of the newspaper and executed 12 people.
Being so convicted that one would don a mask and invade a quiet newspaper office, guns strapped to their backs with full intention of causing harm, now that’s angry. Charlie Hebdo is a newspaper with advertisers, reporters and cartoonists — features, editorials, stories and columns like any other printed paper in the world. Their job was to be humourous about global events, politics and religion. A risky business, but not illegal.
It takes great courage to publicly state unpopular or controversial opinions. All journalists are soldiers in a way; their weapons are keyboards. Getting the stories and then sharing the facts, the opinions and the news for their readers, listeners and viewers — that is what a journalist does. Most of the stories told about this tragedy have been sure to indicate that the views of Charlie Hebdo were “satirical.” Does this suggest that there was something about their work which warranted the ambush? Because they were poking fun at one group or another, that the deaths are more “understandable” or “justified.”
Freedom of expression and freedom of speech are more than just guaranteed rights or ambivalent concepts to be taken for granted in many parts of the free world.