Bournemouth University (BU) academics and students took part in a debate on free speech in Europe following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen.
The debate was organised in the wake of the recent Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris and the attack in Copenhagen. The terrorist attacks were perpetrated following the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad and the ensuing #JeSuisCharlie phenomenon became headline news around the world.
The Je Suis Charlie debate was organised by the Faculty of Media and Communication at BU and aimed at raising questions about the impact those attacks on freedom of speech and the potential consequences and benefits of free speech.
It was attended by staff and students, both from BU and the local area, and chaired by Dr Kevin Moloney, Senior Research Fellow at BU. The panellists, Professor Barry Richards and Dr Hammadi Nait-Charif, from the Faculty of Media and Communication, were each given ten minutes to present their arguments after which the audience was invited to ask questions.
Both academics stressed the importance of hosting debates in a learning environment such as a university, particularly debates around contemporary issues such as free speech.
Hammadi commented, “As intellectuals we need to be debating those issues rather than leaving them and not noticing them. We should have the courage to talk about these subjects without censorship.”
He went on to say, “For us as academics if we don’t scrutinise everything and we are letting some ideas go in under the radar then we are not doing justice to ourselves.”
Barry, who is Professor of Public Communication, said, “On one level I think we need to think quite practically about issues of freedom of speech. In any situation it’s important to look at the consequences of somebody being allowed to or prevented from saying something or exhibiting a certain image.”
Hammadi concluded, “We agree or we don’t but we have to at least scrutinise and make sure that we are not adding fuel on the fire.”