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The Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack

January 9th, 2015

Left-wing journalists contend that the Charlie Hebdo murders should be interpreted as an act against free speech. A conservative columnist suggests that journalists should show more caution and abstain from provoking radicals through publishing tasteless content that can be interpreted as blasphemy.

Népszabadság in a front page editorial interprets the Paris murders as an attack on press freedom and freedom of conscience. “Our colleagues were killed because they took their jobs seriously,” the leading left-wing daily writes. It cautions against explanations that would interpret the terrorist act as an indication of a religious war between the Muslim world and the West. After all, Népszabadság writes, journalists are under threat in all fully-fledged dictatorships and authoritarian regimes where free speech is not tolerated.

In a democracy, everyone has the right to express their opinions, even if these are seen as tasteless by others, Népszava comments. Muslim fundamentalists, however, want to fight against those who do not agree with them, Népszava writes, adding that the terrorist attack against the Charlie Hebdo headquarters confirms the extent to which Muslim radicalism is a real threat to Europe. Particularly to France, where there is a large Muslim population and hundreds have become members of the Islamic State and other jihadist organizations in the Middle East.

Could the murder of the French journalists have been avoided?” Szilárd Szőnyi asks on Válasz. The conservative columnist says the barbarous murders cannot be justified. He, however, adds that the Charlie Hebdo weekly “did everything to earn the hatred of all religious people” through “its coarse cartoons that insulted millions of Christians, Muslims and Jews”. The drawings which were intended by the editors as expressions of freedom were seen as blasphemous by many, Szőnyi suggests. Such provocation, Szőnyi repeats, does not legitimize the bloodshed, but nonetheless suggests that more caution is required, since such messages can easily provoke violence. As violent religious fundamentalism cannot be contained by other means, we should abstain from publishing content that irritates not only those liable to go berserk, but “any sensible citizen as well”.

In Mandiner, Stefano Bottoni (without mentioning Szőnyi’s article) describes as nauseating those comments which suggest that the satirical newspaper went too far by publishing the provocative cartoons. The young historian believes that the murder of the French journalists is not only a terrorist act, but rather a “declaration of war against European civilization” which is based on Judeo-Christian conceptions of tolerance, mutual respect and the rejection of violence.

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