What’s On

Trending in India: Satirical or hurtful?

This time something that was trending in India occurred thousands of miles away in Central Paris but it continues to send chills across the journalism community across the globe. On Wednesday, the office of the french newspaper Charlie Hebdo suffered a terrorist attack which reportedly claimed the lives of 12 including the journalists working for the weekly paper.

What makes this attack different from shooting by Haron Monis on the Australian Lindt Café on Christmas eve, and the terrorist attack on Peshawar Army School that claimed the lives of innocent school children? The fact that here the subject of the attack was a news organisation. These were not just citizens of Paris but journalists who ran a news organisation and conveyed their message through a writing style called – satire and cartoons (something that the attackers don’t understand).

Following the shooting, the attackers shouted that they have avenged their God. Charlie Hebdo had published a controversial cartoon of Prophet Muhammad which infuriated the community and led to the attack. Also, this was not the first attack on the satirical weekly as its offices had been bombed in the past for publishing controversial cartoons. But no one could have imagined an attack of this magnitude.

Last night the lights of Eiffel Towers were turned off in memory of the victims of the attack. Such attacks really make one wonder about all those statements about the freedom of press and the right to publish news the way the publication approves. In India, watchdogs insist on self censorship so that an external body does not have to participate in checking the content of the publication but who decides between satire and hurtful?

Most recent news says that the youngest suspect of the attack has surrendered but the arrest is unlikely to help the situation as it will haunt the journalism society for a long time as they will continue to shudder before they publish something that is likely to become a subject of controversy.

The event is not isolated to Paris. While messages of distress continue to pore in on social media, Indian cartoonists have come forward to express their anguish at the incident and are using pen and paper for the same. The incident has shaken the basis of democracy and it will never be the same for cartoonists around the world. Pen is truly mightier than the sword as it cost the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo their lives.