A Public Letter to Readers on the Charlie Hebdo Tragedy

by Paddy Johnson and Corinna Kirsch on January 7, 2015 From the Desk of AFC

A shot of the attackers

A shot of the attackers

This morning we woke up to news that as many as 12 people at the Paris-based satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo had been shot and killed. The attackers came armed with AK-47 weapons and injured 10 others.

The attackers are at large, and at this point, there’s not even enough information to confirm the reasons for the attack. Though the AP reports that Islamic State (IS) had threatened an attack on French soil following a satirical cartoon of  IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Twitter reports tell us that the attackers asked for the editors by name—ideological differences are clearly a motivating factor here.

Now, normally, we spend the first hour of our workday collecting links. But today, that didn’t seem appropriate. As many as 12 people died today because they didn’t share the opinions of another group. These aren’t people determining international and national policy. They are one spoke in a machine that gathers and reports news—in this case satirical news.

This is a great tragedy, and though we didn’t know anyone at the paper, we share the suffering of our colleagues. Our job as media is to ask questions, seek out different points of view and to encourage discussion. The response to this work should never begin with an AK-47.

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