The Pen is Mightier than the Sword: Journalism Meets Terrorism


A Snapchat image, one of many circulating on social media, depicts a “Liberty” statue in the Place de la Republique in Paris bearing a pencil to honor the fallen journalists. Several protests directed at the attack used this plaza as a focal point.

Not that national news could ever be called cheerful, but I’ve been conditioned to cringe at it as of late. Every day I attend community college in pursuit of a degree in journalism, and then come home to the latest reports of professionals in that field being captured and killed.

2014 was brimming with reports involving countries including Britain, Turkey, and Ethiopia trying journalists as terrorists, coupled with the brutal beheadings of journalists by terrorist group ISIS. Most recently, 12 journalists working for the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo out of Paris, France, were murdered at their offices. The attack, staged by two men attempting to “avenge Muhammad,” followed the publication of a newspaper issue containing derogatory cartoons of the Islamic religion.

The online world has shown their support of freedom of press, speech, and expression using #JeSuisCharlie, translated “I am Charlie,” following the Jan. 7 incident. I am again impressed by the power that social media has to bring people together, this time against extremism, against violence, and for the right to maintain a written voice.

Although the movement has been largely led by professional journalists, the hashtag speaks for itself on Twitter. We are all journalists in our own rights, whether we work for an official publication or not, expressing our ideas and beliefs through statuses, tweets, blogs, and Tumblr posts. As we see amongst our online peers, an unpopular opinion rarely goes without scrutiny; however, someone’s unpopular opinion should not inhibit their privilege to post.

This movement has been so explosive, I feel, not only because of the world’s low tolerance for terror, but because targeting the limitation of personal expression truly hits home. The victimized employees of Charlie Hebdo were killed doing their job, using their God-given talents in a field they most likely aspired to attain their entire lives. Although their subject matter may have been unpopular, the consequence should never have resulted in death. Their attackers, while fighting for what they love — their right to religion — in turn took away the love of someone else — their right to speak freely.

Freedom of speech should resonate with IV Leader readers as well, given that this is more than an issue at the national level. It is not uncommon for universities, both private and public, to restrict their students’ free speech, designating “free speech zones” in small, secluded areas on campus. Now more than ever do I appreciate my right as a journalist at IVCC to be able to publish my opinions by means of this newspaper, within the safe confines of the United States. However, our country is no stranger to terrorism: extremist groups are everywhere. Despite fear of the future, I remain proud embracing my rights as an American journalist through self-expression and freedom of the press, taking these recent attacks as a reminder of how truly blessed I am.