Charlie Hebdo Receives Free Speech Award, Standing Ovation at PEN Gala


The staff of Charlie Hebdo was honored tonight at the PEN American Center gala, following much controversy, and they received a standing ovation as they affirmed their commitment to free speech and free expression.

There was a recent controversy when a group of authors refused to participate in the gala because of their opposition to what they perceive as the French publication’s “intolerance.” Salman Rushdie and a whole host of other writers stood up for Charlie Hebdo, defending them from that charge of intolerance and insisting the free speech principle is of paramount importance.

Well, the gala happened tonight (under heavy security), and they received the award to a standing ovation.

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Gerard Biard, the magazine’s editor, spoke a lot about free speech and what it means to be offensive:

And he concluded with a passage that earned another big standing ovation:

“I perfectly understand that a believer can be shocked by a satirical cartoon about Mohammed, Jesus, Moses or even the Pope. But growing up to be a citizen, is to learn that some ideas, some words, some images, can be shocking.

“Being shocked is part of democratic debate. Being shot is not.”

[image via conejola/Shutterstock]

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Josh Feldman is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Email him here: Follow him on Twitter: @feldmaniac