After three armed men killed a dozen people at the offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris, people around Europe and the world have gathered to spontaneous rallies to express solidarity under the banner #JeSuisCharlie ("I Am Charlie") and show that attacks on free speech will not be taken lightly. A rally of solidarity was also organized in Vilnius near the Embassy of France (Švarco street 1) Thursday at noon.
Žurnalistų palaikymo akcija prie Prancūzijos ambasados
© DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

The rally was organized by French reporter Marielle Vitureau and Vaidotas Beniušis, deputy editor-in-chief of the BNS news agency, who invited his media colleagues on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The rally brought together representatives of various media and a few politicians outside the French Embassy in central Vilnius at noon. Under the flags with black ribbons, they lit candles and left pencils as a symbol of the right of free expression of thoughts. They also held slogans with cartoons and French- and Lithuanian-language words I Am Charlie.

Organizers of the rally say the massacre in the office of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which claimed 12 lives, is not just a brutal murder of a dozen of innocent people but also an attack on free press, which is the fundamental value in democratic countries, both France and Lithuania.

French Ambassador Maryse Berniau walked out of the building to meet the participants of the rally, thanking them for the support.

"You know that in 1789, in the Declaration of Human Rights of France, it was already said and written that freedom of speech was one of the essential freedom of our democracy. Today all the French people are united in this very emotional way and they want really all to support this freedom of speech for the benefit of people of France but for the benefit of all international community," said the diplomat.

One of the organizers, French-born journalist Marielle Vitureau, who works in Vilnius, said the attack united all journalists in France. In her words, French media have pooled their efforts to make sure that the next week's edition of Charlie Hebdo is published next Wednesday, as usual, although the editorial office has lost very important people.

The Lithuania Tribune joins in the message of support to the people of France.

"Free speech and free media are the core pillars of our society. Any attack on it should be treated as a direct attack against our societies, our way of life," says Ruslanas Iržikevičius, editor-in-chief of the Lithuania Tribune. "We should value those freedoms and should not take them for granted. Lithuanians, who are going to celebrate the Bloody Sunday events on 13 January, know very well the meaning of fighting for it. Let’s do not forget that 14 of them died and many were injured while defending the Vilnius TV tower and Lithuania’s National Broadcasting bureau. They defended them against the Soviet aggressors back in 1991.

"Oppressive states and terrorist organisations understand dangers that the free media poses to them, therefore we must be ready. We should all say "Je suis Charlie" today. All our thoughts go to families and friends of those who perished in the Charlie Hebdo office yesterday."

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