Winnipeg media talk respect and responsibility
SAMANTHA SAMSON EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Journalists around the world stopped in their tracks when the Charlie Hebdo shooting happened last January. One year later, and they’re still trying to find clarity and the answers to move forward.
La Liberte and Alliance Francaise du Manitoba invited journalists and media people in Winnipeg to RRC on Feb. 4. Around 20 people came to discuss freedom of speech in different countries, the responsibility of a modern journalist and being sensitive versus being brutally honest.
Charlie Hebdo is known for their satirical editorial caricatures. The ones that allegedly provoked the shooting mocked the Prophet Muhammed.
The bilingual event had the audience speaking with a panel of journalists and artists.
Bernard Bocquel, editor for La Liberte in Winnipeg, was on the panel. He told the audience the cartoon published by Charlie Hebdo was meant to be satirical, and that French humour comes from the country’s history. He said a particular humour has become a way to deal with centuries of violence, so one person’s tastes might not translate overseas.
“When you look at it from a colonial standpoint — to understand people who have been brought up in the headquarters of an empire — it’s a different mentality,” he said. “It can be hard to understand.”
But the idea of safety is something many people can understand — or rather, what it feels like to be unsafe.
When it comes to writing opposing stories or cartoons, the panel discussed what it feels like to be sued and what it feels like to be courageous. Noah Erenberg, founder of Community News Commons, said Canadian journalists might not face the threat of death, but they definitely face the threat of bankruptcy or jail.
“In Canada, it’s not physical safety, it’s the chill of the lawsuit,” he said.
Erenberg said he wanted all Canadian media outlets to run the controversial cartoon after the shooting, “as a show of support and freedom of speech.”
“In this county, it wouldn’t have been considered hate speech,” he said. “I think Canadian media should have rallied.”
Katrine Deniset from Alliance Francaise du Manitoba worked at the CBC for four years. She said what happened at Charlie Hebdo didn’t make her fear for her safety. It made her fear for her accuracy.
“I think it made us re-think everything we wrote,” she said. “And we’re not drawing or writing anything too extremist, we’re just reporting the facts within an organization. But still, it makes you second guess everything you write.”
As for what new reporters and editors have to face now, the discussion became one of testing limits rather than being respectful. There was no conclusive answer, but there was the idea of honesty and holding power to account.
And sometimes, that means being the only opposing voice.
“If it goes on one extreme and there’s no other extreme to figure out a different dynamic or balance, you’re going to fall into one dimension,” Bocquel said. “When it comes to Charlie Hebdo, they had people extremely motivated to test the limits all the time.”
To the point
Sequence of events of from Jan. 7 to 9, 2015
Jan. 7: Gunmen attacked Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France.
Jan. 8: A policewoman was killed in Paris. Hebdo
suspects robbed a gas station in Villers-Cotterets
Jan. 9: Suspects were shot after a supermarket siege in Paris and another in Dammartin-en-Goele
Source BBC News