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Beyond Hebdo. The aftermath of the shooting rampage at the offices of Charlie Hebdo has brought to the fore issues of free speech and responsibility, drawing a sharp distinction between journalism and satire. Journalists should not shy away from their role in tragedy.

20 March 2015 6,784 views 11 Comments
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The right to free expression is not absolute. The Bridge MAG. Image

 Click the link below to learn more about : After Charlie Hebdo: Terror, Racism and Free Speech by  Gavan Titley.    https://amzn.to/2GxfTIa                                                The right to free expression is not absolute.                                                                                         The Bridge MAG. Image

UK journalists were portrayed as ‘traitors’ by a Charlie Hebdo contributor after most UK newspapers, broadcasters and other news outlets opted not to show the  cover with a cartoon of the prophet Mohamed. This brings to the fore the question of whether or not free speech is      aabsolute.

The world was recently taken by storm when 12 people were killed in the gun attack at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.  Four of the magazine’s cartoonists, its editor, and two police officers, were among the victims in the shootings.    

Charlie Hebdo contributor Caroline Fourest in her Sky News appearance following the attack said she was “Very, very sad” about this state of affairs,  explaining how journalists in Britain had “Betrayed what journalism is about’’.

Please find additional reading  by clicking the links below if you would like to know more about Charlie Hebdo shooting rampage :

a) From Fatwa to Jihad: How the World Changed From the Satanic Verses to Charlie Hebdo


b) Paris Terrorist Attack: Why the Terrorists Terrorized Charlie Hebdo Magazine: Volume 1 (Burning Reports: Topics, Issues, Current Events & More)


c)   Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression: Comparative, Theoretical and Historical Reflections after the Charlie Hebdo Massacre Hardcover – 16 Nov 2017  by Jeroen Temperma                                        https://amzn.to/2Gv9PA3

The question that burns on the lips is how responsible are cartoonists for the negative effects of their satirical drawing?

The Bridge Magazine is best known for its constructive international journalism.   Its editorials always approach stories from a more investigative and solutions-oriented angle.

In such a volatile age, is it time to question the role of satire, the extent of its responsibility and self-regulatory remits?

Journalism versus Satire

Journalists are taught to both seek out news but also to recognise otherwise unpromising events for their eventual newsworthiness.

Journalism is the activity or profession of writing for newspapers or magazines or of broadcasting news on radio or television.

According to Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in The Elements of Journalism…

What Newspeople Should Know and The Public Should Expect by Bill Kovach


‘the purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.’

Meanwhile, satire is defined by the online dictionary as ‘a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.’

  • What is satire? How can we define it? Follow the link below to learn ore about:


Good journalism differs from satire in many respects. Good journalism has many boundaries, while satire has very few. Good journalism, ostensibly, practices proportionality or accepted codes of ethical behaviour regarding professional practice.

On the other hand, satire would appear to ignore them. Good journalism is supposed to appeal to reason and a balanced judgement, but satire, by its nature, appeals more to mockery.

The First Amendment protects extreme, unpopular and dangerous forms of expression. However the right to free expression is not absolute. It comes with responsibilities, and consequently the reaction after a publication.

Journalists cannot shy away from their role in tragedy

Nelson Poynter, creator of the Poynter Institute and former owner of the St. Petersburg Times once emphasised a huge difference between journalism and satire. He explained why he would not hire an editorial cartoonist: “the editorial writer would work hard to craft an argument to make a subtle point. Behind that writer was the cartoonist, wielding a hammer.”

Journalism versus Satire. Good journalism has many boundaries, while satire has very few. The Bridge MAG. Image

                                                                                    Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumph                https://amzn.to/2IoOhpg        Journalism versus Satire. Good journalism has many boundaries, while satire has very few. The Bridge MAG. Image

What journalism and satire have in common is that they can both inform or expose an issue, a dictatorship or a misuse of power; but while journalism ostensibly uses subtlety and a balanced judgment, satirists uses caricature to humiliate the corrupt, making him a target of ridicule and provoking strong reactions. Journalists, particularly satirical journalists, should not shy away from their role in tragedy. Articles 4 and 8 of the IFJ Code of Conduct are very specific about this:

  1. The journalist shall use only fair methods to obtain news, photographs and documents
  2. The journalist shall regard as grave professional offences the following:

* plagiarism;

* malicious misrepresentation;

* calumny, slander, libel, unfounded accusations;

* acceptance of a bribe in any form in consideration of either publication or suppression.”

 Click the  following link to learn more about Journalism: Principles and Practice  by Tony Harcup 


Let us hope that the shootings at the offices of Charlie Hebdo will come to be seen as a watershed tragedy which will pave the way for a re-evaluation in terms of journalistic and satirical mass communication. Only constructive and solutions-oriented journalism and other means of positive communication can cast away the spell of violence in a civilised world.  



The editor

Rachel Tcheungna


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