Ales Bialiatski: free speech is killed in many different ways
January 8, Head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski and his colleagues came to the French Embassy in Minsk, to lay flowers and light a candle in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack in the editorial office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which took place the day before in Paris.
Expressing condolences to Paris, as well as to the whole of France, where a nationwide three-day mourning has been declared today, the human rights activist said that this city wasn't foreign to "Viasna". "For us it is still a hard blow because we are members of the International Federation for Human Rights, whose headquarters is located exactly in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, where the attack was committed. And Paris is the heart of the idea of human rights, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948."
A portrait of Ales Bialiatski, placed in the 11th district of Paris on decision of the district mayor's office, has hung there for almost two years, being an expression of solidarity of Paris and its citizens with Belarusian political prisoners. And it was at the initiative of the mayor's office of the 11th district that the human rights activist became an honorary citizen of Paris. "No wonder that the editorial office of Charlie Hebdo, has been which always distinguished with its non-conformism, was located there, a free territory where free speech could feel comfortable. This edition somewhat reminds me of our former "Navinki" [Belarusian independent policy-satirical newspaper, published in the late 1990s - early 2000s - Ed.] They were also able to look at the problem from a different, unexpected perspective, with a share of humorous approach to serious things."
The French have already called the terrorist attack in the French edition of Charlie Hebdo "the most revolting attempt on the freedom of speech in the country in the last half-century". Thousands of demonstrators went out to the Squareof the Republic to express solidarity with the staff of the magazine and support to freedom of speech and press.
"The ideas of democracy, human rights and freedoms are inseparable from the Parisians. That's why they pay a great attention to human rights around the world, including in Belarus," said Ales Bialiatski.
The head of "Viasna" and FIDH Vice-President calls the tragic incident in the editorial office of Charlie Hebdo an attempt to kill freedom of speech, stressing that freedom of speech can be suppressed in many different ways. "Attempts to restrict freedom of speech in different ways, ranging from the murder of journalists to anti-democratic laws, restrictions of the Internet and the prosecution of independent journalists is what the whole society need to actively struggle against, both in France and in Belarus."
Bear in mind that in the morning of January 7 three masked gunmen attacked the office of the magazine Charlie Hebdo, opening machine gun fire and killing 12 people, including ten journalists and two policemen who guarded the building. 11 more people were injured. Among the dead there are four well-known French cartoonists.