San Diegans On Targeting Journalists
Thursday, January 8, 2015
KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday spoke with three San Diegans — a journalism professor, a cartoonist and the editor of an alternative weekly — about the killing of 12 people, including eight journalists, at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly magazine.
The publication has faced threats before, including having its offices destroyed in a bomb attack after printing a drawing in 2011 of the Prophet Muhammad.
Here are excerpts of the comments by KPBS Midday Edition’s guests:
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Dean Nelson, director of the Point Loma Nazarene University Journalism Program, said journalists have been dying at an “alarming rate in recent years,” especially in Mexico and in Central America. He added:
It may be the worst in one singular moment that I’m aware of in recent history but journalists get targeted by many different groups for many different reasons. I think any time someone kills someone for expressing an idea or even being satirical about a religion, I think you should be shocked. This is a shocking thing and it’s a terrible thing.
The satire displayed in publications like Charlie Hebdo is nothing new for Europe, Nelson said. News publications “can be vicious,” he said. “That’s been a part of their communication history. We do it to a certain degree in this country, but the French take it up a notch, clearly, and have a rich history of that—it goes back to the 1700s.”
David Rolland, editor of the alternative weekly San Diego CityBeat, said the shooting is a reminder of the dangers many journalists face. He said:
A few years ago we had the Danish publication that published provocative cartoons on Islamist extremists. If you’re paying attention, you need to be concerned about what you published. Here in this country, it hasn’t been that much of danger. It kind of makes you turn white a little bit and snaps you back into a certain reality that I, here, don’t have to confront. I don’t have to make the commitment to die for journalistic freedom.
Batton Lash, a cartoonist best known for comic book Supernatural Law, said he once received “hate phone calls and hate mails” for a cartoon he did. He added:
The pen is mightier than the sword. We should all double down and say we’re not going to put up with this. Cuba has been horrible toward political cartoonists. They’ve taken their pens away and have thrown them in jail.
City News Service also interviewed a UC San Diego professor whose fields of interest include the Middle East and terrorism. He said the deadly Paris attack could be part of a new era of terrorism in which young men trained in conflicts in the Middle East return to Western Europe and the U.S. full of anger and motivation.
"It's a legitimate security concern," said Eli Berman, an economics professor and research director for international security studies at the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation.
Hundreds of young men who have fought with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq have returned home to places where they are familiar with the culture, speak the language and can blend in with the local populace, Berman said. It's difficult to defend against such people, he said.
In the attack on Charlie Hebdo, he said, amateur video shows "perpetrators who were trained." They knew how to fire their weapons, were familiar enough with their target that they knew they had to get someone to let them in through a security door, made sure that one of the police officers was dead, and managed to escape, Berman said.
"This would tell me that they're veterans of ISIS in Syria or Iraq," he said. "That's scary because there's hundreds of them who have come back."
KPBS web producer Hoa Quach and City News Service contributed to this report.
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