Student Journalists Consider Their Own Freedom in Light of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Tragedy

February 20, 2015

Since the deadly attack in January on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in France, members of the international community have been reflecting on their support for freedom of expression. Here in America, student journalists have looked towards their universities’ speech codes and considered what would happen if a magazine like Charlie Hebdo were published on their campuses. In a fitting theme for FIRE’s Free Press Week, student journalists have reminded their peers not to take their freedom of speech and other core rights for granted.

For example, The North Wind Editorial Board at Northern Michigan University stated:

As the world reflects on the shootings in France, we at The North Wind reflect on our own recent struggles for freedom of speech. We are incredibly blessed to live in a country where we have the right of free press and free speech. We need to remember this right and remember the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack so we both appreciate our freedoms and fight to continue to have a voice on this campus.

Michael Glawe at Iowa State Daily asked readers to question Iowa State University’s restrictive speech codes:

Most importantly, don’t let anyone tell you, reader, what you can and can’t say and where you can say it. This includes, for instance, the ridiculous proposition that public discourse can be relegated to a “free speech zone” — ahem, Iowa State University. For those who are seeking to impose these restrictions on speech, you only harm yourself in the process. It’s not a small sacrifice that you are making, either. You lose not only rights to speak your opinion, but also your right to hear the thoughts and considerations of your neighbor.

Alex Woodfin of Towson University’s The Towerlight put the call for more student activism eloquently when she pointed out:

One day, if enough people decide that what you have to say is offensive, your words could be banned. Your activism would be washed from sidewalks (at least, where you still have the right to chalk). Your thoughts, the precious product of your mind’s work, deemed unworthy; and your words condemned and ordered away until public opinion changes.

Along with those timely reminders, here is a sampling of more student articles worth reading:

We at FIRE are happy to see that so many student journalists have examined important questions relating to free speech and freedom of the press in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. We commend the student publications that have responded with these timely reminders about the rights we enjoy as Americans.