The summary execution of people going about their jobs is distressing and abhorrent.
The murder of journalists has the added evil of representing the worst possible attack on freedom of expression.
The world is today dealing with the shock of the latest atrocity performed purportedly in the name of faith, the killing of 10 journalists and two police officers in Paris.
The magazine targeted in the attack, Charlie Hebdo, was at the vanguard of freedom of expression in France due to its trenchant satire and deliberate attempts to defy political correctness. The team of writers, satirists and cartoonists had resolutely stood up to criticism, political pressure and threats against their lives, in support of freedom of expression.
Charlie Hebdo had brazenly gone where others feared - or had no appetite - to tread, mercilessly parodying sacred cows from political leaders to Islamic terrorists.
It was a campaign against the latter that had resulted in serious threats against the publication and its staff.
In late 2011, the magazine's office was petrol-bombed, apparently a reaction to a special edition farcically edited by the Prophet Mohammed. The publication's catoonists regularly depicted the prophet, in a move considered by many to be deliberately provocative and offensive.
According to The Guardian, the editor Stéphane Charbonnier, who is among the dead, maintained that there should be no taboos in French society, while editor-in-chief Gérard Biard, has said: "We're a newspaper that respects French law. Now, if there's a law that is different in Kabul or Riyadh, we're not going to bother ourselves with respecting it."
The magazine sought to challenge social views and societal norms, and pushed satirical boundaries into areas unpalatable to many, but it did so within cherished principles of freedom of expression which in mature societies, including our own, includes the freedom to offend.
This attack may have been motivated by a desire to silence critics, satirists or those who bravely say what they believe, with no fear of the consequences. It is likely to have the opposite effect.
Journalists and non-journalists are today uniting, some using the phrase "je suis Charlie Hebdo", I am Charlie Hebdo. The magazine has not been silenced. Even as a great many of its staff lie dead, the values they represent are stronger, and ideally better understood, than ever.
"This is a brazen assault on free expression in the heart of Europe," said Robert Mahoney, the Deputy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), today. "The scale of the violence is appalling. Journalists must now stand together to send the message that such murderous attempts to silence us will not stand."
According to the New York-based CPJ, 61 journalists were killed in 2014. Just a few days in to 2015, it is appalling to be already adding another 10 to this grim ledger.
The cold-blooded murder of our colleagues, cannot have a chilling effect.
The work of journalists, satirists and cartoonists around the world, must be supported. Without freedom of expression, we lose the capacity to highlight and right wrongs, hold leaders and policy-makers to account and to challenge evil wherever it occurs.
Joanna Norris is editor of The Press and chair of the New Zealand Media Freedom Committee.
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