Media Coverage

Creativity Is Risky: Free Speech in a Charlie Hebdo World


New Yorkers Speak Out About Press Freedoms

September 26, 2015

@ Michelle Zapata

Persecution of writers and journalists abounds in our society, including the murder of 11 people at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by two Al Qaeda terrorists for their cartoons of Muhammad; the jailing of Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran for his involvement with The Daily Show; and the torture of Raif Badawi, the founder of the internet discussion group Free Saudi Network, who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison.

Several New Yorkers have collaborated to raise awareness about these and other examples of how writers, journalists and cartoonists suffer at the hands of extremists and also democratic governments with surveillance programs, including the United States.

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October 16, 2015

protectyourheartLast week, we featured an article about the e-mag Creativity Is Risky: Free Speech in a Charlie Hebdo World, published by Manhattan resident Sally O’Dowd to raise awareness about the persecution of writers and cartoonists around the world.

A tribute to the 11 Charlie Hebdo journalists murdered in January by two Al Qaeda terrorists, Creativity Is Risky reminds us how easy free speech can be whittled away. While writers in the West are curbing Internet searches for fear of government retaliation, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is getting lashes in Jeddah.

While the magazine’s articles cover a wide range of intersecting issues related to free speech, the original photography is a story in and of itself. Creativity Is Risky art director and photographer Michelle Zapata guides us through it. You’ll never take graffiti for granted again.

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Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 12.17.56 PM

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 12.18.14 PMAn author with ties to the Decatur area has published an online interactive magazine 
tackling the ongoing threat to freedom of speech

Raised in Fort Wayne, Sally O’Dowd is the daughter of Ruth Holthouse O’Dowd, a graduate of Decatur High School. O’Dowd said in a telephone interview it is because of her “journalistic roots” she published the magazine. She is the granddaughter of former Decatur Mayor Arthur Holthouse — who served as one-time mayor in the 1930s and was an editor at the Decatur Democrat.

O’Dowd is a New York-based communications executive, content marketer, blogger and former reporter. She brings years of study and experience to the issue of free speech and French culture. She has a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and received her B.A. in political science and French literature from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame. She has spent considerable time in Paris, having done a semester at La Sorbonne and directed global content and social media efforts for MSLGROUP, a strategic communications and engagement company owned by French holding company Publicis Groupe.

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 12.18.44 PMEight months after the brutal murders of 11 Charlie Hebdo staffers, her U.S.-France team has collaborated to further the conversation about free speech and the global persecution of writers, journalists and cartoonists.

“Creativity Is Risky: Free Speech in a Charlie Hebdo World” is a multimedia e-magazine featuring original reporting, personal essays, an interactive map on press freedoms, videos and music. It tells a story both sad and hopeful about the state of free speech around the world.

“This magazine is designed to educate and engage people around the world on issues related to free speech — from violent threats to the more subtle, everyday challenges … ” O’Dowd said. “I wanted my summer to be creative and cathartic. People have always said, ‘You love writing, why don’t you build on that?’ So I used my experiences to make an interactive magazine. There are videos, music, original photography. It’s not just text.”

 The magazine evolved from a seven-part music-inspired blog series that O’Dowd wrote to honor Charlie Hebdo and the people around the world who rallied behind it. The e-magazine includes:
• A book review and images from Catharsis, by Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Luz, who used cartoons and words to share his trauma and grief after the attacks;
• An analysis of Charlie Hebdo’s mission from Emmanuel Letouzé (Manu), the New York-based French cartoonist and development economist;
• Extensive reporting on global constraints placed on journalists with information provided by human rights organizations PEN American Center and Freedom House;
• Unique insight tying the historical use of satire to the case of Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari, who was jailed in Iran and is the subject of Jon Stewart’s movie Rosewater, by Renée Kingcaid, French professor at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame;
• An epilogue on the constant, everyday threats to free speech by Chicago investigative journalist and author Jim Ylisela.

Readers of this interactive magazine can also click to watch PEN American Center’s videotaped conversation between The Daily Show’s Jason Jones and Maziar Bahari, engage with a Freedom House map on global press freedoms, and listen to tracks by singer-songwriter Chaz Langley that call for an end to violence and comfort its victims.

“Creativity Is Risky” invites readers to engage by sharing its content and their opinions using the hashtags #creativityisrisky and #freespeech. “Our team is passionate about this issue, and we want to hear from readers,” O’Dowd says. “Where do you see free speech being celebrated or curtailed? Help us create a #freespeech movement.”


the journal gazette

Attack spurs city native to defend free speech

by Keira Carr, The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, Ind.), September 3, 2015

In January, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi stormed into the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, killing the satirical magazine’s editor, cartoonists and office visitors.

The killings stemmed from the publication’s satire on Islam.

For journalist and Fort Wayne native Sally O’Dowd, the attack on Charlie Hebdo touched on many levels. She had lived near the office during her time in Paris, where she worked in corporate public relations.

She also lived in New York during 9/11 and the aftermath of that attack. After living in Paris, she moved back to New York.

“Because of the 9/11 connection, and the journalism connection, and the French connection, it was a perfect mix of stimuli that hit me hard emotionally,” she says.

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Music: A Week in the Life of New York City

–byline by Sally O’Dowd, October 8, 2015

Introducing a group of young musicians at Carnegie Hall last week, Danny Glover made it clear that performer and listener alike were there to call for peace.

“Music tears down the walls of misunderstanding,” he said on the eve of the General Debate of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, which took place between September 28 andOctober 6.

Music is a unifying force, an art form that everyone understands regardless of language or country, said Glover, noting that more than 100 musicians from more than 70 countries were part of the International Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, created by the New York-based Turken Foundation. Even though many of them did not speak each other’s language, they would make perfect harmony under the guidance of conductor Jose Luis Gomez.

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