Close to 4 million people joined a historic march in Paris, France, on Sunday, to show sympathy with the 12 fallen staffers of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine, and support for the right of free expression in the media.
The 12 were shot by two brothers, orphaned children of Algerian immigrants, on Jan. 7 at Charlie Hebdo’s editorial headquarters. The magazine was known for mocking religion and politics and had been threated before.
The march was led by more than world leaders including French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Also linking arms at the front of the march was Malian President Boubacar Keita, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“What we saw on display on the one hand was very heartening, to see so many people come into the streets,” said Jeremy Scahill, author and investigative reporter, speaking Monday on the news show “Democracy Now.”
“But on the other hand, this is a sort of circus of hypocrisy when it comes to all of those world leaders who were marching at the front of it. Every single one of those heads of state or representatives of governments there has waged their own wars against journalists.”
Scahill then listed the leaders whose record was far from impeccable. Among those was Prime Minister Cameron who ordered The Guardian newspaper to smash with a hammer its computer hard drives that held the files of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. He cited African and Arab leaders whose own countries right now have scores of journalists in prison.
Killings of journalists totaled 7 in Israel and the Occupied Territories in 2014, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Prominent journalists censored or punished for their writing elsewhere include Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, locked up for documenting secret U.S. cruise missile strikes that killed scores of civilians, and Sami al-Hajj, Al Jazeera’s cameraman held for six years without charge in Guantánamo and repeatedly interrogated by U.S. operatives who were intent on proving that Al Jazeera had some sort of a link to al-Qaeda.
“Then you have General Sisi, the dictator of Egypt,” continued Scahill, “who has imprisoned multiple Al Jazeera journalists whose only crime was doing actual journalism. (Also) U.S. forces in Iraq who shelled the Palestine Hotel, killing a Reuters cameraman and the Spanish cameraman José Couso.
A Gabonese journalist interviewed live at the march expressed similar reservations about his president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, taking part in the event.
“He banned demonstrations in his own country and is coming to a demonstration in France. That’s intolerable for us. We’re here not only to show our outrage for what happened to Charlie Hebdo, but also to show our outrage over the fact that dictators like Ali Bongo Ondimba are present here in Paris, in a country that supports human rights, at an assembly that is in fact dedicated to freedom of expression, freedom of the press.” w/pix of Sunday march in Paris lead by national leaders