‘Charlie Hebdo’ and freedom of speech


A chara, – The Irish Times is to be commended for deciding not to republish material it deems “likely to be seen by Muslims as gratuitously offensive and [that] would not contribute significantly to advancing or clarifying the debate on the freedom of the press” (“The Irish Times and the cartoons”, January 13th). The right to risk giving offence by speaking hard truths as the situation warrants should never be mistaken for a duty to offend for its own sake. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Congratulations to The Irish Times – five words that I don’t often write – for exercising its right not to republish any of the Islamophobic Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

Satirising hegemonic power is courageous but satirising the victims of that power is cowardly. Alas, this cowardice is all too often mistaken for courage.

The words of the novelist Saladin Ahmed are worth pondering: “In a field dominated by privileged voices, it’s not enough to say ‘Mock everyone!’ In an unequal world, satire that mocks everyone equally ends up serving the powerful. And in the context of brutal inequality, it is worth at least asking what pre-existing injuries we are adding our insults to.” – Yours, etc,


Dublin 2.

Sir, – I am disappointed by your decision not to publish the cover of the post-massacre edition of Charlie Hebdo. The justification that publication would be gratuitously offensive to Muslims ignores the enormous offence given to everyone else by the murderous behaviour of Islamist terrorists in Paris. The Irish Times has had no problem publishing Martyn Turner cartoons which were offensive to devout Catholics, but those carry no threat of violent reprisals. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – What is lacking in much of the debate concerning the recent tragic events in Paris is common sense and the recognition that a “right” to absolute “free speech” and absolute free expression of any opinion in the media, however offensive, simply does not exist. Nor should it. Legal rights are usually circumscribed by the recognition that they should be exercised in the common good and can be restrained in certain circumstances where their expression is likely to cause such profound offence that violence and communal strife is likely to result.

I support the editorial decision made by you not to reproduce the cover of the current issue of Charlie Hebdo, but I consider the coverage of the story and the reproduced cartoons in The Irish Times to be in conflict with the spirit and reasoning that led to that wise decision. – Yours, etc,


Harold’s Cross,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – It was good to see that Ireland was officially represented by the Taoiseach in Paris on Sunday, at the march for freedom of speech, and to show solidarity with the 12 people murdered at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, (and the four civilians killed at a kosher grocery and the police officer who was fatally shot last week). Incredibly, officials from Saudi Arabia also attended the march, just two days after Raif Badawi was publicly flogged (the first 50 lashes of 1,000) for exercising his right to freedom of expression. Mr Badawi was jailed for 10 years in May 2014 after starting a website for social and political debate in Saudi Arabia. He was charged with creating the “Saudi Arabian Liberals” website and “insulting Islam”. His sentence also included 1,000 lashes, a 10-year travel ban, and a ban on appearing on media outlets.

Last year Mr Kenny congratulated the crown prince of Saudi Arabia on that country’s election to the human rights council of the United Nations. This year he should publicly distance Ireland from this latest abuse, and other gross human rights abuses (violence against women and discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sect, race and ethnicity) by the Saudi Arabian authorities.

The Government should demand that the Saudi authorities cease to continue with Mr Badawi’s punishment of flogging, which violates the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in international law. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Free speech is important and must be cherished. But does that include the freedom to insult and deride things that many hold sacred? Maybe it should, but I, for one, feel a bit uneasy.

Before we rush into amending the Constitution to decriminalise blasphemy, maybe we should consider a bit more the danger of incitement to hatred and violence. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – I fail to see how you are serving your readership by running a Charlie Hebdo centrespread. While respectful of the right of a publication to publish, I contend that this decision was, at best, irresponsible. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6W.

Sir, – How disappointing it is that The Irish Times failed to reproduce the cover of this week’s Charlie Hebdo magazine in yesterday’s edition, despite the fact that you trumpeted “two pages of Charlie Hebdo cartoons” in a banner at the top of the front page (January 14th). The issue of the depiction of Muhammad in cartoons and other forms is absolutely central to the Charlie Hebdo news story, and by failing to reproduce the image, you have failed in your duty to inform your readers and to allow them to make up their own minds on the alleged offensiveness of these images. By failing to reproduce the Charlie Hebdo front cover, I’m afraid that protestations of solidarity by The Irish Times ring rather hollow. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 14.