On Charlie Hebdo

Je-suis-CharlieThe murder of eight journalists in a monstrous terrorist attack at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has understandably triggered global revulsion. Other atrocities of this scale have typically been condemned because citizens going about their daily life have been injured and killed.

What happened in Paris was different. Instead journalists were targeted because of what they published. The human tragedy is of course equally as shocking but in its aftermath the people are also responding to a greater sense of violation that took place last Wednesday.

In recent years confidence in press integrity has been severely tested, not least by the revelations of excessive invasion into our privacy. Frankly the media has been hard to love. Yet the violence in Paris has awakened an instinct deep-rooted in the public consciousness.

Under attack, we have perhaps surprised ourselves just how strongly protective we are of the freedom of expression we usually take for granted and think little. If there is a crumb of comfort to be digested following this outrage it is the genuine outpouring of support not just for the journalists killed and their families but also for the principle of free speech they stood for and represented.

In some respects the attack also demonstrates the enormous power and influence of the modern media. It seems to us beyond reason that a group should wish to silence a small magazine, read by relatively few, in such a savage and horrific manner. Yet the rolling coverage of the crime, broadcast in real-time to billions of people, channeled to all corners of the world is the pay-off that the killers crave. The hideous irony is that the callousness of the terrorists is rewarded with a global media platform from the news networks whose freedom to report is the very principle that the perpetuators sought to restrict by their terrible actions.

The industry should take the time to reflect on the loss of Stephane Charbonnier and his team at Charlie Hebdo. We should also remember Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff and the other newsmen murdered in Syria and Iraq. It is an ultimate price that they have paid for the freedom that allows us, in the all the insurance and reinsurance markets around the world, do what we love to do.

 Je Suis Charlie.

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