Is There a Limit to Freedom of Speech?
by audreynoiseux on September 12, 2016 - 11:44pm
On August 24 2016, an earthquake killed 295 people and injured almost 400 in the city of Amatrice, in Italy. On the morning after, Charlie Hebdo, a newspaper recognized for its controversial humor about events of actuality, published a cartoon depicting the victims of the earthquake as different types of pasta, showing a bleeding man labelled ‘’Penne with tomato sauce’’, another one, severely bruised or burned, labelled ‘’Penne au gratin’’ and a pile of victims under a collapsed building, their legs and blood coming out of the rubbles, labelled as ‘’Lasagna’’.
In January 2015, the whole western world was supporting Charlie Hebdo, victim of a terrorist attack by Islamist terrorists, in reaction of a cartoon made by the newspaper about the prophet Mahomet, where twelve people were killed. From this event was created the expression ‘‘Je suis Charlie’’, a symbol of freedom of speech.
A new expression is currently used by many on social media ‘’ I’m no longer Charlie’’. The Italians are deeply shocked by the cartoon made about them. Sergio Pirozzi, the Amatrice’s mayor, said ‘’ How the f__ do you draw a cartoon about the dead!’’. Furthermore, the French embassy in Rome defended that the caricature did not represent the France’s position.
In respond to the controversy, Charlie Hebdo published another cartoon about the earthquake where there can be read ‘’Italians, it’s not Charlie Hebdo who has built your homes, it’s the mafia!’’, referring to the presence of organized crime in the construction companies in Italy. That just added fuel to the fire. The municipality of Amatrice decided to sue the newspaper for aggravated defamation.
This event relates to the moral claim ‘’ People should not be used as a mean to an end’’. In this case, the victims of the earthquake have, in a certain way, been used by the newspaper to attract public attention. Considering that the satire is about people who were killed by nature, thus who were completely innocent, it is seen as very harsh to use them in a caricature. The main value defended by Charlie Hebdo is the freedom of speech. Considering that the newspaper’s goal is to provoke, to say things that are sometimes hard to hear but must be heard, to make people laugh or to make them angry, and has always been that way, they are presently simply defending their ideas, which are the same that on January 2015. On the other hand, many people believe that this time, they went too far. They express compassion for the victims and their families. Furthermore, the accusations made by the newspaper regarding to the organized crime among the construction companies upset deeply the municipality of Amatrice, already deeply shocked by the first cartoon about the earthquake, who claims that there is defamation and sues Charlie Hebdo, defending their integrity.
Even if I can understand that it must be hard for the victims’ family to see such a cartoon while they are going through very difficult times, I believe that we cannot only make fun of others. It was fair enough for everyone when the newspaper, exercising its freedom of expression, was publishing caricature about muslims, because there is already a lot of islamophobia in the western world. On the other hand, I think it is very fair from Charlie Hebdo to do a satire against Europeans as well. Of course it will provoke people, but isn’t it the goal of a satire? It creates reactions. Sometimes we might be the ones laughing, sometimes we might be the ones others are laughing at. Is there a limit to freedom of speech? If so, can we still defend it and claim that we want to protect it?
Reuters. ‘'Charlie Hebdo draws Italian anger with cartoon portraying earthquake victims as pasta.’’ The Telegraph, 2 Sept. 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/02/charlie-hebdo-draws-italian-a.... Accessed 12 September 2016.
Boyle, Darren. ‘’Charlie Hebdo is sued by Italian town for mocking earthquake that left 300 dead with cartoon comparing its crushed victims to lasagne.’’ Mail Online, 12 Sept. 2016, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3785704/Charlie-Hebdo-sued-Itali.... Accessed 12 September 2016.