The events in Paris on Tuesday, when gunmen waltzed into the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and murdered 10 of its staff and two police officers, stunned the world. In London, I was in the queue at Tesco on my lunch break when I saw the footage from the BBC broadcast on the television. Everyone was silent.
When something like this happens we look to our leaders for some kind of guidance (or we can look to our cartoonists – Ed). In previous years, announcements from our prime minister regarding terrorism often side-noted how lucky we were to live in a safe and open society. Tony Abbott offered no such reassurance. It is clear that the world, and our corner of it, has changed.
As well as condemning the events in Paris and deeming them as an “atrocity”, the prime minister told Australians that whilst there was no official warning from security agencies; citizens should still be vigilant and contact the National Security Hotline if they witness anything suspicious. He asserted that “the Middle-Eastern death cult had declared war on the world” and as a result we can “expect more of this”.
The PM said extremists “hate our freedom” and that “Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of a free society”, a sentiment shared with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and David Cameron who made similar statements after the attack.
It is understandable that these leaders have come together so strongly to defend freedom of speech, given that this right has been fought over for centuries in Europe. The success of a democratic society relies on a fundamental premise that no government, regime or religious order can demand to be immune to ridicule and criticism.
Australia’s prime minister has made it clear that “we will defend our way of life” and that in this declaration me must be sure not to “compromise our values in defending them”.
IMAGE: Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)