First of all, I thank all the MSPs who signed my motion, all those who have stayed behind this afternoon to listen to the debate and, of course, all those who stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the people of France in their time of need at First Minister’s question time a year ago.
It is time for Parliament to reflect on the events that took place on 7 January 2015 at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. We remember today the journalists—and I call them journalists, because cartoonists are journalists as much as they are artists—the police officers and others who fell victim to what was an attack on the right of free speech. The following day, more people died in a Jewish supermarket in Paris.
I understand that many terrorist attacks across the world do not get the same attention in our media or in Parliament and that, despite the fact that some of them claim many more victims, they often go unreported. However, the attack on freedom of expression that day brought together French communities not only in France as never before but across the world and, indeed, across Scotland. It happened in Aberdeen, where I remember the French community coming together with a lot of Scottish friends, in Glasgow in the rain—I have seen the pictures—and in the capital, Edinburgh.
France has a great love not only of the work of cartoonists but of politics—in fact, they go very well together—and that explains the overwhelming reaction of the people in France on the day of the attack. Over there, cartoonists are celebrities, invited on to chat shows and news programmes, listened to, read and appreciated by all. This day—today—must be about them and about cartoonists being free to work in France and across the world.
A victim of the attack was Cabu, who was, of course, one of France’s most popular artists, journalists and cartoonists. He served in the French military during the Algerian war—France’s own Vietnam war—but that did not stop him drawing. He drew cartoons for the army magazine Bled and other publications such as Pilote. When I was young, I was a great fan of Pilote, where no less than the father of Astérix, René Goscinny, first employed Cabu. I know how much Astérix is loved in Scotland; in The National, for example, you can find him speaking the mother tongue, and it is great to see him crossing borders.
In 1960, Cabu co-founded Hara-Kiri magazine. What a name! The magazine did, indeed, commit hara-kiri by getting banned, only to be replaced the following day by Charlie Hebdo. A year before the attack, we had lost another one of the magazine’s founders, the cartoonist Cavanna, who was a great hero of mine. Like Charlie Hebdo, Hara-Kiri respected nothing; as Cavanna explained, “We respect nothing, because nothing is respectable.” Let us be clear: these magazines are outrageous, provoking and crude, sometimes obscene. It is very clear that they do not appeal to everyone’s taste, and they are certainly not for everyone.
Another victim on that day was 80-year-old Wolinski, who, like Cavanna, was from an immigrant family. He was born in Tunisia to Jewish parents, and drawing cartoons was his life; the drawings were very political but also very erotic, and were perfect for a publication such as Charlie Hebdo. Nevertheless, in 2005, he was recognised nationally and awarded France’s highest decoration, the Légion d’honneur. Another victim, Bernard Verlhac—or Tignous, as he was known—had his work published in many other popular magazines that I very often used to buy when I was young, such as Fluide Glacial. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Tignous was a member of Cartooning for Peace.
Many more died that day at the Charlie Hebdo offices: Philippe Honoré, another cartoonist; two columnists, Bernard Maris and Elsa Cayat; a copy editor, Mustapha Ourrad; and two more people who happened to be in those offices at the time, Michel Renaud and Frédéric Boisseau. The editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, or Charb as he was known, also died that day despite being under police protection. That is how his bodyguard, police officer Franck Brinsolaro lost his life. Another victim was Ahmed Merabet, the policeman who opened fire on the terrorists. His brother said later that Ahmed was Muslim and very proud of being a police officer and defending the values of the French Republic.
At this point, I would like to strongly state that the attack, like many other terrorist attacks in the past, had nothing to do with religion. It was about power. It was about men wanting power. It always is.
A year on, we are still asking how best we can respond to terror. Charlie Hebdo has given us the best response that we can get to this attack on free speech. It has kept on doing what it was doing before—being outrageous, mocking and provoking us all, and showing no respect to anyone because none of us is respectable.
In the aftermath, the clear message came from people—not from politicians or the media—that an attack on our journalists, on our cartoonists, is more than an attack on free speech. It is an attack on us all. That is why we must not change any of our laws to restrict free speech or our freedom of expression. We do not need to like or even buy Charlie Hebdo, but we need to ensure that it has the right to be published.
Cartoonists are also taking a bigger place in politics here, from Steve Bell to Greg Moodie. We might not always agree with them, but we need to ensure that their drawings are seen. Let us make today, 7 January, a day to celebrate cartoonists across the world. After this debate, the cross-party group on France will meet in committee room 4 to have a discussion on the subject led by Scottish cartoonist Terry Anderson, who is in the gallery, from Cartoonists Rights Network International.
Let us ensure that we keep intact our freedom of expression. I finish with the words of another journalist, Antoine Leiris, who wrote an open letter to the terrorists who killed his wife in the atrocity at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris last November. He wrote:
“no, I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you.”
Today, let us celebrate cartoonists across the world.