World Association of News Publishers

How the French news media rallied to teach children about freedom after the Charlie Hebdo attacks

How the French news media rallied to teach children about freedom after the Charlie Hebdo attacks

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After the attacks in January 2015, the French press went into high gear to help the that country's children and adolescents understand the freedom of expression roots and implications of massacre and the implications of the Je Suis Charlie [I am Charlie] wave of solidarity that followed. Here are some examples of what they did.

Many French publishers offered suggestions for how to talk with children about both the attacks and about freedom of expression. Milan press and France television even created a special video as part of its One Day, One Question series.

Charb, the editor at Charlie Hebdo who was among those killed, had done cartoons for the PlayBac Presse flagship edition for children, Mon Quotidien [My Daily]. The editor offered nine of its editions for free, with downloads totalling 300 000. Those editions covered all facets of the attack and the response for all of its age groups. They had special sections with commentary from teachers, cartoons from youth, an explanation of the key role of the press in protecting freedom of expression and the daily risks some journalists faced all over the world, the limits to free speech in French law, etc. You can download some examples:

> Petit Quotidien (for readers under age 10) edition after the Charlie Hebdo attacks

> Mon Quotidien (for readers agest 10 to 14) edition with children's reactions to the Charlie Hebdo attacks

> L'actu (for ages 14 and up) edition after the Charlie Hebdo attacks

Similarly, the youth division of Bayard press offered a 10-point overview about freedom of expression and of the press for children.

French journalists and cartoonists went into classes in unprecedented numbers as teachers struggled to explain the story. In one region, reporters set up their own Facebook operation to speed the process.

The theme of the national Week for the Press and Media in School held annually in March, for which most French news media are partners, was changed from "Une info, des supports" [One story, many platforms] to "La liberté d'expression, ça s'apprend" [Freedom of expression, it can be learned] with a special Charlie Hebdo resource and background site put together very quickly..

The move garnered massive support from journalists, the regional and national press and from other media and from educators themselves.

TImagery for France's annual Week of the Press and Media in SchoolsImagery for France's annual Week of the Press and Media in Schoolshe organizer of the week is CLEMI, the media in education arm of the education ministry, saw inscriptions from schools rise dramatically after the announcement of the theme change with 1200 more schools, making the total 15 000 schools.  Among teachers, 22 000 more teachers than in the previous year joined for a total of 210 000 with  80 percent saying they followed the press freedom theme.  Demand increased also for visits of exiled journalists into classes after the attack, with 30 during press and media week alone.

Both the magazine association and the regional press association gathered the front pages about the attack in one place online for easier study. CLEMI and TV5Monde furnished extensive background and educational tools on their sites, and Reporters Without Borders created a free map of the world that illustrated its analysis of the level press freedom in 180 countries.

Political and satirical cartoonist and their editors also contributed. For example, Cartooning for Peace worked with the press distribution group Prestalis to create a travelling exhibit of cartoons dealing with freedom of expression and other human rights issues. Le Courier International worked with a class to make the selection of which cartoons from around the world on the topic that would appear in the next edition.

In addition, publishers put an emphasis on teaching about how news is different from other content through activities, contests, etc.  Agence France Press offered free access to much of its content, daily stories, photos, infographics and videos in six languages and many news media outlets invited classes to experience how they did the news and also teamed up with PlayBac Presse to do a front page contest.

The Press and Media Week theme is kept for two years, with next year adding more potential for publishers to work with families and in primary schools on the topic. Also the Minister of Education announced in June that it would also help facilitate getting more journalists into class. For more about the  2015 Press and Media Week activities, in French, click here.


Aralynn McMane's picture

Aralynn McMane


2015-07-02 11:32

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