Flemming Rose, editor of the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten, is experiencing a painful deja vu. In 2005, he made the decision to publish now-infamous cartoons of Mohammed. His aim was to highlight the tendency towards self-censorship in European media and to insist, unequivocally, on freedom of expression. In the process, he earned a heaping of death threats. Meanwhile, the paper’s cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, went into hiding, narrowly escaping an assassination attempt in 2010.
Rose has spent the years since then defending free expression against a culture of compromise and conciliation, but he remains deeply pessimistic about the future of free speech in Europe—not just because he knows the journalists killed in the Charlie Hebdoshooting and not just because they were killed for printing cartoons. He’s pessimistic because it’s a continuation of what he calls a decade-long assault in Europe on liberal ideals and freedom of expression. The assault is gradually snaking its way across the continent: Amsterdam 2004, the murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh; Madrid 2004, train bombings; London 2005, bus bombing.
Now France 2015: Twelve journalists and cartoonists murdered. Rose fears that this latest act will make editors across Europe pause before they go to the printers. It will encourage self-censorship; it will bring us closer to a “tyranny of silence.” I spoke with him by phone from Copenhagen about the massacre and where Europe needs to go from here.