Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

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Press Release - Response from Harriet Harman to the murders at Charlie Hebdo

The murder of staff at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris is a tragic and terrifying crime. 

Our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of those who died and we stand in solidarity with the French Government. 

But this crime has implications far beyond the tragic loss of those who died and beyond France.

There is a real concern that this crime will cause a chilling effect and undermine free speech.

We have to be clear that the right of free speech is a basic human right for every individual and no democracy can function without freedom of the press.

The right to satirise, to lampoon and to criticise is a freedom which we must celebrate and defend.  It was decades ago when, in this country, we abolished the law of blasphemy which criminalised satire directed at the church and decided that religion too should be subject to free speech.

All political parties in this country will be clear on this and we should be prepared to take all the steps necessary to assure our journalists and media that we will do everything we can to defend that right of free speech and guard against the chilling effect or the self-censorship that these murders might engender.

Satirists, journalists and anyone who works for a newspaper or publication should not have to live in a climate where they fear for their safety.

We must also guard against the danger that this murder will be used by Islamophobes or extremists to stir up religious and racial hatred.  Muslims in this country - as The Muslim Council of Britain has said - will be horrified by this attack on free speech and loss of life.

We must not allow free speech or our Muslim communities to be victims too in this terrible murder.

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