The sound of silence

The Economist 24/1 2015: Reactions to the Paris attacks highlight threats to free expression around the world

IN 2011 Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical newspaper, was firebombed. Its editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, was asked if he could understand that moderate Muslims might have been offended by its cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. “Of course!” he replied. “Myself, when I pass by a mosque, a church or a synagogue, and I hear the idiocies that are spoken in them, I am shocked.” Charlie Hebdo kept publishing such images. On January 7th Mr Charbonnier and 11 others were murdered by radical Islamists for their “offence”. The paper’s actions were a sign of defiance. But they also reflect France’s free-speech law, which protects commentary on religion, even when it insults or mocks.