Opinionista Pieter-Dirk Uys 8 January 2015

#JeSuisCharlie – beware self-censorship

The relatively unchartered territory of satire has always been a minefield. More often than not, democratic freedoms of speech and expression have offered a safe passage, but those who tiptoe through this unknown known only armed with humour as their weapon of mass distraction, must understand how badly it could end.

Urban terror as a career-move for fanatics shows how Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame congeals into hours of infamy. The world morphs into a stunned neighbourhood as social media reflects the opinions, prejudice and common sense of a world not yet used to the fact that bombs and news can break in the palm of our hands. 

Censorship now happens in many subtle ways. The bigger fear is self-censorship where the fear of violent retaliation, no matter how small, mutes the voice and cripples the word. Nothing is beyond satire. There are a million ways to find the target without igniting the mines under our feet.

Journalists must write. Cartoonists must cartoon. Readers must read. And everyone must stand up and be counted. Then there will be more exclamation marks of question than question marks of fear. DM

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"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall

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