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Attack on Paris newspaper

THE gruesome killing of 12 people, among them eight top journalists, including four cartoonists and Stephane Charbonnier, the editor of Paris-based French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, by two gunmen is, clearly, a condemnable assault on the freedom of the Press which must not be tolerated anywhere in the world.
We join all those who have risen in strong condemnation of the attack and hope that such a senseless attack will not befall men of the pen profession anywhere in the world again, Nigeria inclusive.
The bloody attack on the magazine’s office by two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, who have been killed in a shoot-out, expectedly triggered off outrage the world over.
The shock waves generated by the cold blooded murder had hardly abated before another man, Amedy Coulibaly, shot and killed a police officer and murdered four hostages at a kosher supermarket before being killed in a shoot-out with Police, also in Paris.
The attack on the newspaper is an outright assault on freedom of speech and the press. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” This provision is also in line with the provisions of Sections 22 and 39 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (as amended).
We condemn the killing of the journalists, whose only ‘offence’ to their assailants, are cartoons regarded as disrespectful or irreverent representations of the Holy Prophet Mohammed according to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen that has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Those who have any grievance against the media, in our view, should go to court rather than resort to self help as was the case in this dastardly attack.
While we commiserate with the families of those who lost their lives in the attack, we note with deep concern the dangers which media practitioners continue to face while performing their legitimate duties especially in troubled parts of the world.
For instance, it is on record that no fewer than 118 journalists and other staff of media organisations were killed worldwide last year alone, the most gruesome being the public beheading of American freelancer journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS.
According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), those killed were targeted for their work, caught in crossfire and reckless attacks or died in accidents and natural disasters while on assignments, and urged governments around the world, including Nigeria’s to “make the protection of journalists their priority.”
We totally agree with the IFJ that governments including that of Nigeria should put additional security measures in place for full protection of media practitioners and guarantee their safety because of the important role they play in the polity, while no stone should be left unturned in ensuring that such a bestial act is not allowed to happen in Nigeria.
The French authorities deserve a pat on the back for swiftly rising to the challenge of the terrorists who they quickly tracked down and took out after a massive deployment of security personnel and after the electronic surveillance through close circuit cameras gave the rampaging gunmen out.
We, however, call on the French authorities to do all in their power to fish out and bring to justice all those who, directly or remotely, are connected with the insane massacre, since we believe that the murderers must have been part of a wider terrorist network operating in France or members of Al-Qaeda which has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Tracking down and disabling any of such networks in France and wherever else in the world they are operating from would prevent any more deadly attacks on people in the future.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo should serve as a warning to security agencies in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world to do more to secure the society, especially media practitioners, who are easily targets of extremists. Security personnel should be deployed to media houses as part of measures to protect journalists.
There should be electronic surveillance of our major cities and shopping malls through widespread installation of close circuit cameras where none exists to aid crime detection, prevention and investigation.
We welcome the solidarity of the world with France in the wake of this attack and call on the global community to extend same to Nigeria which is fighting the murderous Islamic sect, Boko Haram. Such gesture, no doubt will go a long way in defeating the sect which has massacred thousands of innocent citizens and are holding many hostage.
Since one of the cardinal objectives of the United Nations (UN) is the maintenance of global peace and security, the body should map out and enforce an integrated action plan against terrorism, which is the latest threat to world peace.
Rather than wait for the terrorists to strike at soft targets as was experienced in France, security agents under the proposed action plan should take the battle to them and ensure that law abiding people including media practitioners are protected and the world is made a safer place for all.
It is within such a safe atmosphere that people will be able to exercise their fundamental human rights including freedom of speech which the perpetrators of the recent attack sought to stifle, albeit unsuccessfully, given that the Paris paper has refused to be silenced.

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