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World

Paris Attack Demonstrates Perils Of Free Speech

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And speaking of freedom and freedom of speech, an organization that tracks attacks on journalists and threats to free speech is the Committee to Protect Journalists. Joel Simon is executive director and he joins us now.

Good morning.

JOEL SIMON: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now, you've come out pretty strongly, saying this is a huge blow to free speech. I mean, terrible though as this event is, how so? How so a blow to free speech?

SIMON: I think you have to look at what happened in Paris in the context of the unprecedented levels of violence against journalists all over the world. The last three years have been the most dangerous and deadly years ever documented by the Committee to Protect Journalists. More journalists killed, more journalists in prison, so there's a global struggle for freedom of expression. This is the latest front.

MONTAGNE: Well, of course some of that is state-sponsored. In fact, quite a bit of it is state-sponsored, not terrorist.

SIMON: Absolutely.

MONTAGNE: So how do these connect?

SIMON: Yeah. There are myriad threats to journalists and free expression around the world. I think they connect in the sense that journalists and speech itself is vulnerable and it's under attack from a variety of fronts. And we see this in places like Syria and we see it in places like China. There's a systematic effort to suppress the work of journalists and journalists are under threat around the world.

MONTAGNE: OK. I just should point out though that this magazine was extremely provocative - which in no way, in no way, mitigates these terrible killings. But, does that apply to mainstream media, especially in terms of these sorts of really serious threats, death threats?

SIMON: I think what we need to do in this context - there's no question that this was a very provocative media outlet. But when I think of what happened in Paris, my thought is this is the moment when we need to rally in the defense of free speech. We have to recognize that it is these kinds of provocative voices around the world that are most threatened and most under threat. So I think that's really what's at stake. And I think what really shocks me is the kind of attack that took place in Paris and what we see every day in places like Mexico and Pakistan, in places where journalists are under threat from violent forces within the society. But I never expected to see this happen in a major Western capital, in Paris.

MONTAGNE: Joel Simon is with the Committee to Protect Journalists. He's also the author of "The New Censorship: Inside The Global Battle For Media Freedom."

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MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.