LOS ANGELES – Islamist militants murdered 12 people in the Paris office of the magazine Charlie Hebdo because the publication routinely lampooned the Muslim prophet Muhammed, and now media professional around the world are vowing not be intimidated by the massacre.
“This wasn’t an attack on the French magazine,” terrorism expert Rachel Ehrenfeld, Ph.D., director of the American Center for Democracy told FOX411, in an email. “This was an attack on free expression and all the liberal values of the West.”
French film industry body ARP, made up of writers, directors and producers in France, reacted to the tragedy by praising the publication’s “historical courage” and declaring that threats will not “interfere with freedom of expression and freedom of creation.”
The heads of the French national broadcasters’ group France Televisions, Radio France, and the country’s largest newspaper Le Monde said they would band to keep Chalrie Hebdo running, providing all “human and material resources necessary,” and asked others to join them “to preserve the principles of independence and of freedom of thought and expression which guarantee our democracy.”
As a mark of solidarity, scores of cartoonists and content creators across the globe started sharing provocative political images on social media. Dutch political cartoonist Ruben L. Oppenheimer posted a drawing of a plane being flown into two sharp pencils resembling New York’s twin towers, Indianapolis Star political cartoonist Gary Varvel posted a picture of blood splattered on the words “freedom” written on a piece of office paper, and Australian cartoonist David Pope for The Canberra Times shared an illustration of a masked, Kalashnikov-wielding gunman having shot a cartoonist dead and claiming: “He drew first.”
Many prominent media and entertainment figures expressed their concerns and condolences on social media using the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, which means "I am Charlie."
“Words are louder than weapons and journalists are stronger than terrorists,” actress Emma Watson tweeted, while "Harry Potter" author J.K Rowling noted that “sometimes a picture says it better than any writer could.”
Comedian Tina Fey hesitantly addressed the issue in a press conference on Wednesday, stressing “how important free speech is" and that “you cannot back down,” adding that as Americans, "we have to be able — even if it’s just dumb jokes in 'The Interview' — we have the right to make them.”
Indeed some feel the attack may not intimidate the media, but instead have the opposite effect.
“I expect more parodies because people – including Europeans and especially the French – are fed up with Islamic intolerance and victim-card playing,” said Timothy Furnish, a U.S military veteran with a PhD in Islamic Studies. “Most – not all – of the media will not be cowed.”
Crisis communications expert Gene Grabowski agrees.
“The world has received a serious wakeup call in France about what is really at stake [is] the issue of world terrorism,” he added. “The shameful and deadly attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris was certainly an egregious attack on freedom of expression and may actually prove to be a turning point in how the world stands up to terrorists.”
But Hollywood producer Gary Michael Walters says there is still a risk the attack will affect how writers, comedians, artists and journalists will handle issues pertaining to radical Islam.
“It’s pretty clear Al Qaeda does not have a good sense of humor,” he said. “The attackers of freedom must be pursued and brought to justice. Media companies should take suitable security measures and be vigilant without shirking their mission.”