#JeSuisCharlie, the South African media, free expression - what are the links?

What does the terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris have to do with South Africa's picture on freedom of speech and expression, particularly for our media?

Notable media personalities Peter Bruce, Ferial Haffajee and Tom Eaton reflecting on these links through their three columns.

Former editor of the Business Day Peter Bruce wrote "Je suis Charlie offers lesson of tolerance". Bruce unpacks his thoughts on Charlie Hebdo's decision to have their post-attack cover featuring another depiction of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad:

It's done what it had to do. I was just watching a video of the cartoonists announcing what they were doing on the cover today and it was very moving, with the drawing of the Prophet Muhammad with a tear running down his face and somebody scribbled 'all is forgiven' at the bottom. I think it's a great cover. (On his column) it just seemed to me to be important to remind people that although this terrible thing had happened in Paris, life in many Muslim countries and many African countries because of the Jihad, is intolerably awful. People are routinely and very casually killed, raped or kidnapped in the name of the Prophet. I just wanted to remind people that what happened in Paris - in the greater scheme of things - was not a small event, but a routine event in many countries.

Satirist Tom Eaton - who first rose to prominence as a columnist for the Mail and Guardian - wrote "Why we aren't really Charlie" :

I chose to stay away from the geopolitics but I did feel that people were taking an emotional stand, without fully understanding why they were taking that particular stand. As I point out in my column - why are we outraged, exactly? The easy answer is 'something terrible happened'. The more complicated answer is 'why aren't we equally as outraged about other terrible things that happen?'

Meanwhile, City Press Editor Ferial Haffajee who wrote "Treading the tight line of tolerance" wants the South African media to truly start interrogating it's freedom to expression, as enshrined in the Constitution:

What I do tire of in South Africa is that we always speak of 'the costs' - where do we draw the line? And we speak about its limits. As journalists and editors, we're harming that right in Section 16 of our Constitution (Freedom of Expression) by constantly referring to the bigger picture, by not amplifying this right and I make absolutely no apologies by being horrified by the killings in Paris and it doesn't mean I can't be horrified by what's been happening in Baga (Nigeria), but I don't think that they are exceptions. You can't support the one and not support the other.

To add fuel to the fire around freedom of speech and expression, an Israeli newspaper edited out the women leaders who marched in solidarity with global leaders in Paris following the terror attack. Redi Tlhabi weighed in on the layered levels of irony of this move:

I'm reflecting on this picture (below), have a look at it - women edited out of Paris rally picture. They were there in numbers - world leaders. And in this picture that appeared in an Israeli newspaper, they were edited out and the paper apologised, claiming it's policy was not to publish pictures of women, on the grounds of modesty. And it's the irony that I can't stand - here are people, supposedly covering a march for freedom of speech and they are going to 'wish' women out of that march; so much for 'freedom of speech'. They are adhering, obviously, to religious dictates, they did not want to offend the powers-that-be, yet what occasioned it was the lampooning of another religion. It's just jaw-dropping, the hypocrisy. And what does it mean to not publish pictures of women on the grounds of 'modesty'? In my mind, this makes a mockery of free speech, it confirms what I've been arguing - not everybody who was out in the streets was supporting free speech. It's 'free speech' if it's directed at somebody else, but if it comes to you, it is an attack, it is disrespect, it is denying your rights. Why the newspaper felt it right to cover? They shouldn't have covered the event, then. They're covering politicians gathering in a march against terrorism, also in a march for free speech - that's what that march was about. But in covering it, they themselves are going to adhere to religious dictates and sensitivities. That's not freedom of speech - it's hypocrisy.

Listen to the forum in full below:

702 welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the 702 community a safe and welcoming space for all.

702 reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

702 is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
Naked Scientist: Your skin has a memory

Naked Scientist: Your skin has a memory

A new study has shown skin cells can remember previous injuries and respond faster if the same patch of tissue is injured again.

Why low sexual desire is not 'abnormal'

Why low sexual desire is not 'abnormal'

Low sex drive is common and non-sexual relationships can also be fulfilling, explains clinical sexologist Dr Eve.

Man wants end to six-year marriage after wife refuses to cook for him

Man wants end to six-year marriage after wife refuses to cook for him

Geoffrey Matovu filed for divorce in the Family Division of the High Court accusing Ms Tryphena Nakiyingi of being disrespectful.

Why 'I believe you' are important words for sexual assault survivors

Why 'I believe you' are important words for sexual assault survivors

Not In My Name's Siyabulela Jentile says supporting sexual assault survivors could potentially help prevent any further abuse.

Blessee's taste of the 'champagne lifestyle' told in new book

Blessee's taste of the 'champagne lifestyle' told in new book

This is the story of Bontle Tau, a woman who exploits her looks to access material success and juggles her three main 'blessers'.

Former Eldos drug user opens up about losing her kids and getting clean

Former Eldos drug user opens up about losing her kids and getting clean

Gugs Mhlungu spoke to a former drug addict and the department of social development about the scourge of drugs in communities.

Popular articles
Sassa cards will be functional beyond expiry date

Sassa cards will be functional beyond expiry date

Sassa says text messages making the rounds asking beneficiaries to come and renew their Sassa cards is a hoax.

Why Sisulu and Dlamini-Zuma aren't suitable Presidential candidates: analyst

Why Sisulu and Dlamini-Zuma aren't suitable Presidential candidates: analyst

ANC branch in the Eastern Cape, Z.R Mahabana, has launched a campaign backing Lindiwe Sisuslu as an ANC presidential candidate.

It's not the end of the road... Top tips to improve your matric

It's not the end of the road... Top tips to improve your matric

"Recognise that it’s not the end, it’s the beginning." Expert advise for school-leavers who want to improve their results.

Bylaws, times you may use fireworks

Bylaws, times you may use fireworks

City of Johannesburg has urged residents to respect by-laws and the times set for fireworks to be used.

‘I started my thriving business with R5000 (and made a profit in the 1st month)’

‘I started my thriving business with R5000 (and made a profit in the 1st month)’

After 3 years there are 3 Nic Harry stores (incl online) that sell 100 000 pairs of socks in over 20 countries around the world.

3 easy questions could bag you R2000!

3 easy questions could bag you R2000!

WIN R2000! But only if you can prove you're a whiz of the MTN Biz Quiz by answering the following three questions...

Blesserfinder: Matching you with a sugar daddy near you

Blesserfinder: Matching you with a sugar daddy near you

Is social trend Blesserfinder, where girls are allegedly matching up with rich 'benefactors' in exchange for sex, a real thing?