Following the brutal terrorist attacks in Paris on January 10 against journalists at French magazine Charlie Hebdo and customers at the Hyper Cacher supermarket that took the lives of 16 innocent people and injured dozens more, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote a joint opinion piece condemning these atrocious l crimes. In an article that appeared in the January 15 edition of The Times of London, they stated that the United States and Great Britain would stand together against all those who attacked freedom of expression, the rule of law and strong democratic institutions. They noted that, “When the freedoms that we treasure came under a brutal attack in Paris, the world responded with one voice. Along with our French allies, we have made clear to those who think they can muzzle freedom of speech and expression with violence that our voices will only grow louder.”
The following day, Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to Paris to offer the heartfelt condolences of the American people and his personal solidarity with the people of France. In his remarks with French President Hollande, the Secretary said “we share the pain and the horror of everything you went through. We watched the people of France come together with a great sense of purpose and unity. Once again, France, through its commitment to freedom and to the passion of ideas, has made an important statement to the world.” The Secretary went on to note that regardless of one’s politics or religion, what unites the citizens of democratic societies everywhere is a shared aspiration to live in tolerant, diverse societies that protect the rights of all.
The United States believes that freedom of expression is a key element in every healthy democracy. Media organizations and news outlets often publish information that is meant to cause and stir debate. While we may not always agree with the judgment of every item of content, the right to publish such information is one that is fundamental and universal. For these reasons, the United States strongly condemned the Paris attacks. We will continue to offer assistance to French and other European authorities as they conduct investigations to bring to justice all who planned and supported these criminal acts.
On a personal note, my wife and I spent the Christmas and New Year’s holidays this year in Paris, leaving just a few days before terrorists struck at the very fabric of France’s multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society. During our time there, we visited the Museum of Jewish Art and History and the Shoa Museum, both of which document past times of intolerance and violence against France’s vibrant Jewish community. For this reason, the attack on the Jewish kosher Hyper Cacher supermarket seemed all the more horrific to us. However, in the days following the terrorist killings, we were deeply moved by the unity and outpouring of support for France that came not only from the international community of nations, but also from people around the world, including those here in Equatorial Guinea.
This response was based on a rejection of the hatred, suffering and intolerance that these terrorists embodied. In remarks shortly after the attacks, President Obama made clear that the United States would continue to support “freedom and hope and the dignity of all human beings” He added poignantly, “And that’s what the city of Paris represents to the world.”