Je suis Charlie

Je suis Charlie. Indeed, if we are to stand for a free press, today we are all Charlie Hebdo. I fear that we are also Charlie for other reasons though. A reason that should perhaps instigate change, stimulate us to stand together more, react as a whole and act upon established stereotypes which lead to inconceivable violence and intolerance.

As an exaggeration perhaps, anyone of us, especially journalists, could have been Charlie. Freedom of expression doesn’t solely come through the written word or mass media platforms. It begins from the very first words we preach as a child up until we fall into an eternal sleep.

Photos of hundreds of thousands of French citizens joined together in the streets of French cities for a remarkable show of national solidarity and support for liberal values after the devastating attack on the satirical magazine mark a spark towards opposing these radical activists. The words “Not Afraid” inscribed on boards hovering over those gathered speak for themselves.

The gesture was reminiscent of social media statuses in which people inscribe their thoughts without really knowing who are they are talking to. After all, in your headline on Facebook it asks you: “what’s on your mind?” I’m sure many of us have read that line on many occasions and asked ourselves: “indeed, what’s on my mind?”

And it’s all good sharing that on your personal page. I’m all for sharing. But turning to the person physically sitting next to you is also an alternative. Think about it. When was the last time someone asked you what’s on your mind, face-to-face? Perhaps we should address issues more directly. Grasp matters at the roots before aiming at a mass audience.

I’m not sure what I would say to the editor of Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier, one of the victims, if I could speak to him face-to-face. Perhaps I would tell him that I’m angry. But I’m sure that if I asked him what’s on his mind I would be in on a ride. And a worthy one too. Aside all the sentiments we may have with regard to the tragic incident, I feel we owe Charlie Hebdo Magazine and the 12 people who died on Wednesday morning a thank you, to say the least. A thank you for stirring matters which must be addressed. Without violence. But with freedom of speach.

Published in The Cyprus Weekly Newspaper, January 9, 2015

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About Melissa Hekkers

I am freelance journalist and author, who has frequently been featured in mainstream news outlets and other publications in Cyprus. Recently, I've been focusing on developing my writing, promoting my own books and teaching creative writing to children and adults. My most recent publication (2020) - Amir's Blue Elephant- pushes the boundaries of creative non-fiction, and recreates the moments that marked me the most, whilst volunteering in refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece, and during her ongoing involvement with the refugee community in Cyprus. In 2018 I published My Capre Greco Mandala which is the third in a series, an interactive colouring book about the biodiversity of the Cape Greco peninsula in Cyprus. My Akamas Mandala, the second in the series, is a colouring book inspired by the variety of endemic plants found on the Akamas Peninsula. In 2016, I published My Nicosia Mandala, the first of the above series, an innovative, interactive colouring book about the historic fortifications of the old town of Nicosia. I also focuses on silenced communities in Cyprus: I writes about migrants and refugees, both as a reporter and a features writer; I profile them and teach them creative writing skills. In 2007, soon after graduating with a Communications degree, I published my first children’s book in both English and Greek entitled Crocodile, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. In 2012, I launched my second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (in English and Greek), using an experimental approach to literature, for which I was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. My third, similarly well-received children’s book was Pupa (Greek and English), published in 2014. In between the last two books, I published my first free-verse poetry book entitled Come-forth. In 2019 she was contributing author to the anthology Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices from a Divided City, published by Saqi Books, London