For Charlie Hebdo, and freedom of expression

Je Suis Charlie

Yesterday, I shook my head in disgust at the story of a Maryland politician who was bullying a local reporter for daring to write about him. Frederick County Council Member Kirby Delauter threatened to sue the reporter for mentioning his name in a news story without his permission. (“Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an attorney.”) It was a stupid, ignorant threat, and when the Frederick News-Herald responded with a scathing and funny editorial, I cheered.

The editorial — Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter — is mostly tongue in cheek. But the editors noted sobering statistics about the threats journalists face.

Kirby Delauter’s ignorance of what journalism is and does is no joke… Take Councilman Billy Shreve’s abstract, almost nonsensical defense of KD*: “I think media outlets are cowards and they hide behind the label of journalists and that’s a bully pulpit to expand their liberal” agenda. Cowards? Tell that to the families of the 60 journalists killed in 2014, or the 70 in 2013, or the 74 who died in 2012, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Today, that last sentence has awful relevance. Add twelve names to the toll.

The writers, editors, and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo in Paris wrote satire. They knew well that this put them — literally — in the line of fire. Their offices had already been firebombed. Their editor had round the clock police protection. They continued to publish.

They stood up to threats. As did the Parisian police officers who ran into the face of fire when the magazine came under attack.

Here’s to their courage.

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