ST JOHN’S –– The local media fraternity here and in the rest of the Caribbean have strongly condemned the attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo that has left 12 people dead, including ten media workers.
Hooded gunmen stormed the Paris offices of the magazine known for lampooning Islam and other religions yesterday, killing people in what international news agencies described as the most deadly militant attack on French soil in decades.
In swift reaction to the news, chair of the Antigua & Barbuda Media Congress steering committee, Martina Johnson, said media workers were being killed and attackers were yet to face justice.
“Journalists are being killed and nobody is going after the killers; nobody is prosecuting them. Nine out of ten cases we have looked at every year they are not solved, and this is one of the major concerns of the international Press associations and regional associations,” Johnson said in an interview.
She said if the perpetrators were allowed to continue to act with impunity, then people would continue to feel it is okay to attack media workers.
“When the media reports, it is often not our views but the voice of the people; so when journalists are killed, it is an act to silence the voice of the people,” Johnson said.
General manager of the Observer, Caecilia Derrick, said she was “shocked and stunned” after she got wind of the story on the international Press.
“To think that journalists can be gunned down or killed simply because they are doing their jobs . . . I am shocked; I am stunned by it,” Derrick said.
Derrick also indicated it was rather worrying that the attack was suspected to be in response to satirical work.
“To think that these people were gunned down or killed simply because they put word to paper and poked fun at some people is not something we can accept for even a second,” Derrick said.
The Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) also addressed the matter.
In a statement, the regional media organization said it was appalled at the brutal attack on the offices and staff of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo and the murder of 12 people, including ten members of the editorial staff.
The association said it was also concerned about the increasing levels of intolerance among some groups that were willing to kill journalists who were exercising their freedom of expression to expose aspects of global politics.
The regional body said it supported and stood behind its French colleagues and those globally who had given their lives for a fundamental principle of journalism –– the freedom of expression.
Among the dead are two police officers, the weekly’s chief editor and four celebrated cartoonists on staff.
Thousands joined impromptu rallies across France yesterday in memory of the victims and in support of freedom of expression.
The government declared the highest state of alert, tightening security at transport hubs, the religious sites, media offices and department stores as the search for the assailants got under way.
Stacey Wilson-McMahon, a former resident of Antigua and Barbuda who now resides in Paris, three blocks away from where the incident took place, told the Observer the scene was “like France’s 9/11”.
“This is really the first in a long time that France has actually seen something like this, and I think everybody is still in a state of shock and watching closely was what’s going to happen in the news, what information we are going to get and hopefully find who these people are,” Wilson-McMahon said.
French police have since identified three men as suspects in yesterday’s massacre.
According to police and other officials, two of the suspects are French brothers aged 34 and 32 from the Paris region, and the third is an 18-year-old from the northeastern city of Reims.
There were also conflicting reports on whether the teenager was a French national.