Principal leaders of the western democracies declared their commitment to freedom of the press and the right to publish in the light of the Charlie Hebdo murders. It was mentioned that no one in a democracy had the right not to be offended. However, would Charlie Hebdo be allowed to publish it's material in the UK without risking criminal prosecution? The Criminal Justice and Order Act 1994 inserted Section 4A into the Public Order Act 1986 which prohibits anyone from causing alarm or distress by - inter alia - any writing, display or representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting. In 2008 Harry Taylor was convicted and sentenced to 6 month imprisonment suspended for 2 years under Section 4A because he left anti-religious cartoons in a prayer room of Liverpool's John Lennon Airport.
What follows the slaughter of the senior staff of the Parisian satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo will be a test of the depth of Europe's liberal instincts. The weekly paper, run by journalists with the real courage of their convictions, has done more than its duty for freedom of the press. It falls to Europeans to display their attachment to other pillars of a free society: the rule of law, the observance of democratic norms, the display of tolerance and nondiscrimination.