January 7 2015 was a shocking day for journalism. The murder of five cartoonists, two editors, one economist, two police officers, one maintenance worker and a guest of the magazine of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris rocked an industry, a nation, and the world.
December 29 2014 marked the first year of imprisonment of three Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt. They were charged for allegedly liaising with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. All protest their innocence.
These events symbolise the deteriorating state of the freedom of the press all over the world.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that in 2014, 221 journalists were imprisoned around the world.
It is alerting enough when journalists are wrongfully jailed in countries such as China and North Korea where the media is heavily censored but matters are only getting worse in nations free from censorship.
CPJ’s Global Impunity Index shows that in thirteen countries including Iraq, Somalia and the Philippines, the murder of hundreds of journalists have gone unsolved. This is just 2014.
So where does the media stand in a world where journalists are jailed and those who brutally murder and unjustly prosecute them are spared?
The very nature of journalism makes it public property. The intention behind every news story whether it is in the form of a video or an article or a radio broadcast is to inform and to do this it must reach an audience. But, of course, having an audience means having critics.
The Charlie Hebdo attack was powered by such ‘critics’. One of the gunmen was recorded on video proclaiming, “Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo!”- referring to the magazine’s multiple sardonic depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
Must journalists now then appease their critics in order to prevent a literal career suicide?
Do we now live in a world where journalists must tread the line carefully for fear of either being arrested by authoritative powers or killed by masked gunmen?
Is a ten year sentence the new reward for attempting to get both sides of the story? Is publishing caustic caricatures now punishable by death?
These questions are all hyperbolic but they are necessary in times when hyperbolic steps are taken against those whose job it is to inform and report.
Arguments can be made about how the freedom of the press is not a luxury all countries have and how we must respect such systems because in some cases (Singapore comes to mind) media regulation can work.
However, the lines are blurred when nationals of countries who celebrate free press are jailed in countries with censorship.
I am not suggesting that journalists be given special treatment when doing their reporting. Journalists are trained to respect their subjects but they are also obligated to report on all aspects of the story to prevent bias and that, at least, must be honored by the public.
On the other hand, Charlie Hebdo may not strictly respect their subjects but it specialises in mockery in order to emphasise a point.
There is no excuse for prejudicing a group of people but satire is a form of press that is so heavily embedded into some cultures - including France - that those exposed to it growing up will find its effects watered down.
However, to outsiders, it may be misunderstood as something jeering which is where things can get lost in translation.
Amidst all this, global campaigns such as #FreeAJStaff and #JeSuisCharlie show how these issues are being recognised all over the world.
The millions of people mourning in solidarity for those who have been wrongfully harmed in the name of free speech shows that we as a race want to be curious, we need to be informed, to spread word and share opinions. It shows the journalist in everyone.