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Five years ago, on 7 January 2015, a tragic attack took place in Paris on the editorial staff of a satiric magazine, Charlie Hebdo. On Tuesday 7 January 2020, we reflected on these events and debated the future of journalism in our society. What impact did the attack make? How did it affect people’s personal lives and the safety of journalists, cartoonists and publishers?
The start of our debate series ‘Ode to Press Freedom’ was a huge success. Various media reported on the debate. Dutch newspapers NRC, Nederlands Dagblad and Den Haag Centraal published articles on it. Just before stepping on stage, our panel member, Tjeerd Royaards, editor in chief of Cartoon Movement, spoke live to Dutch broadcasting station, RTL.
Cartoonist Joep Bertrams – who worked, among others, for a weekly news magazine, De Groene Amsterdammer – opened the evening:
“This time it was serious. I didn’t have any deadlines, so I decided to make a political print. This was clearly a grave situation. Colleagues had been murdered because of their work, and a response was needed.
“The arrest of Dutch-Turkish journalist Ülger already got my adrenaline pumping, but now I was fuming. Normally, I approach difficult subjects with some caution. However, this time I felt this was not necessary. The people at Charlie Hebdo would have known how to respond, they provided the standard. This cartoon was the result, it went viral.
While I was drawing, the telephone kept ringing. People wanted my opinion. I was invited to attend TV and radio programmes both at home and abroad. You’d almost think you’re important. It was touching to hear so many people express their concerns for the safety of us cartoonists.
And always the inevitable question: Will you approach your drawings differently now, be more cautious? It was not something I was thinking about at the time. Cartoonists received a tremendous amount of attention. If you were cynical, you may have thought of it as a high point. Of course you don’t start drawing any differently. You draw what you “see” and don’t suddenly see things differently. “