Satire Under Fire: Can Free Speech Go Too Far?

Danish journalist and author Flemming Rose talks to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on freedom of expression and the terror attack in Paris.
5:47 | 01/11/15

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Transcript for Satire Under Fire: Can Free Speech Go Too Far?
Live scenes from Paris. This morning, world leaders joining with citizens up to a million in the streets after the latest in a string of murderous assaults on free speech by jihadists. The cartoonists at "Charlie hebdo" knew they were courting danger and after their sacrifice there's been a powerful response. Check out where people tweeted worldwide using #jesuischarlie, I am Charlie, and David Wright has more on a remarkable display of solidarity. ? Reporter: After a day in which comedy quite literally came under fire, comedians fired back. I know very few people go into comedy, you know, as an act of courage mainly because it shouldn't have to be that. Reporter: Hbo's bill Maher going farther than most blaming not just the fanatical fringe but mainstream muslims. Hundreds of millions of them support an attack like this. They applaud an attack like this. What they say is, oh, we don't approve of violence, but you know what, when you make fun of the prophet, all bets are off. Hundreds of millions of muslims support this? Absolutely. Reporter: Jimmy Kimmel rightly called him on that. The exchange an example of free speech. People are free to say outrageous, offensive things. Others are free to voice their disapproval. That's what is so wildly out of whack in what happened in Paris. The idea that anyone would seek to prove the point in blood that the sword is mightier than the pen, and it isn't the first time. Three years ago after publishing a spoof issue guest edited by the prophet Muhammad, "Charlie hebdo's" offices were firebombed. The editor at the time defiant. Without freedom of speech, we are dead. Reporter: Today he is dead. Satire under fire and not just in Paris. You want us to kill the leader of North Korea? Yes. What! Reporter: The idea that a Seth rogen comedy could end up launching an international cyberwar sounds, well, like something out of a Seth rogen script, but it happened. You like it. Reporter: This week cartoonists around the world got to the heart of it. Ruben Oppenheimer with a plane barreling into the twin pencils. David pope with this scene. He drew first. Tom Toles put a kalashnikov next to a quill pen. It will endure, but it's not a simple, oh, the pen will always win. That day the cartoonists were killed and they will not be coming back. Reporter: And the line will be drawn says the cartoonist little alter ego. In France pencils raised, weapons, a mass expression. For this week, David Wright, ABC news, London. And we are joined now by Danish journalist Flemming rose, the editor behind the publication of the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad back in 2005. He wrote a book "The tyranny of silence" how one cartoon ignited a global debate on the future of free speech." Mr. Rose, thank you for joining us. What is that future after this attack? I'm a little bit pessimistic although I'm very happy to see the kind of solidarity that the world is showing with "Charlie hebdo." But my fear is, you know, when we have to go back to our daily work and how this is going to translate into a day-to-day editorial line I think -- I'm afraid we will get back to, you know, where we were before. And I'm speaking from my own experience. You know, we have seen examples of that this week, this morning a German publication attacked. You wrote an article this week saying we must all be "Charlie hebdo," yet your own newspaper chose not to rerun the cartoons. In your mind was that backing down or being responsible? It was both. It was backing down. But it was a consequence of the kind of situation we have found ourselves in over the past nine years. Several terrorist attacks against the newspaper have been foiled. In 2010 a cartoonist was nearly killed by a man who broke into his house with an ax, so we have been in this situation for the past nine years under huge pressure, so, yes, we caved in, unfortunately, but we did it because a lot of people are afraid and people at the top of our organization were thinking about the security of its employees, and I perfectly understand that being in this situation. Whether or not I would have welcomed the republication or not. And you have written that in the wake of these kinds of attacks, we need not only sensitivity training but insensitivity training. What does that mean? It means that in a democracy you have many rights. You have the right to free speech, freedom of religion. Freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, the right to vote. But the only right you should not have a democracy and especially in a multicultural democracy is a right not to be offended because in a multicultural society we are all very different, and this difference in terms of culture, ethnicity and religion means that we also have very different ways to express ourselves. So it's -- we have to be clear that a multicultural society should not lead to less freedom of speech but, in fact, to more freedom of speech, to more diverse ways of expressing ourselves. Mr. Rose, thanks very much for your time this morning.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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