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Right to Offend

By Dani Naess Hellesund
Opinions Editor

In lieu of the Paris shootings this month at the satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo, the issue of offensive speech has become a hot topic. Around noon on Jan. 7, two terrorists with a plan to silence a loud voice in French media took their guns and opened fire at the magazine’s offices, killing 12 people.

Marseille residents rally in support of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Photo credit: Jean-Benoît Zimmermann
Marseille residents rally in support of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
Photo credit: Jean-Benoît Zimmermann

On Jan. 8, a policewoman was shot and killed in Paris; the murder of the policewoman was linked to the terrorist attacks. On Jan. 9, another terrorist, allegedly associated with the Charlie Hebdo killers, emerged and took several hostages at a Jewish supermarket in Paris, killing four people. On Jan. 9, the two terrorists responsible for the shootings at the magazine were captured and killed outside of Paris, ironically at a printing press. The third one was killed in the Jewish supermarket that same day. Seventeen innocent people were killed in those three days of terror.

How far can you go with words and drawings? Is it okay to offend people and their religion in order to make a statement? I say that the more restrictions that are put on the media, the further we move towards a closed society, which is NOT a good thing. The media should be able to comment, write, and draw whatever is needed to make a valid point or to contribute to a social debate.

The media is not supposed to take sides in any story. It should only promote the unbiased debate. If this is done using satirical, comical drawings, or using the power of the spoken and written word, then that is a good thing. It helps to keep our society open and holds people in power responsible. If religion is made a taboo for the media, then how do we expect to have an open debate about issues that surrounds it?

This unforgivable act of violence against innocent people was all done because of a loud voice that exercised its rights of freedom of speech and expression. To maintain the open debate and our free society, the media — and others — need to be able to offend people. Whether that be politicians, celebrities, people who belong to a religion, atheists, school officials, whomever, as long as it serves the greater good and keeps our society open, our social debate alive, and our freedoms protected.


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