Plea to publish Charlie Hebdo cartoons in defiance of ‘barbarity’

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“Je suis Charlie” – defiance in support of freedom of speech in Paris. Image: RSF

David Robie also blogs at Café Pacific.  #JeSuisCharlie

THE PARIS-based media freedom organisation Reporters Sans Frontières has called on global media editors to publish Charlie Hebdo’s political and religious cartoons as a response to the shocking “black Wednesday” attack on the weekly satirical magazine.

Renowned internationally for its scathing and hilarious cartoons, Charlie Hebdo has always put its fight for freedom of information first, says RSF.

And now its staff has been “decimated by an unspeakable act of violence that targets the entire press. Journalism as a whole is in mourning”.

Many social media posters are asking is this a new “freedom of speech war”. Supporters are declaring “Je suis Charlie” – “I am Charlie” in vigils of solidarity.

“But,” warns RSF, “freedom of information cannot shrink in the face of barbarity and yield to blackmail by those who assail our democracy and what our republic stands for. In the name of all those who have fallen in the defence of fundamental values, let us continue Charlie Hebdo’s fight for free information.

“By making this appeal, RSF is expressing its deepest solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.”

Pacific Media Watch, a regional watchdog project of the Pacific Media Centre, has joined the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)  in condemning the massacre of cartoonists and journalists as a “barbaric act”.

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Masked gunmen attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo shortly before lunchtime, killing at least 12 people and seriously wounding four.

“Attacking a newsroom with lethal weapons is the kind of violence we see in Iraq, Somalia and Pakistan,” said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire, speaking at the scene of the attack.

“Could we have expected such horror in France? It was a nightmare that became reality. This terrorist attack is a black day in the history of France.”

French news organisations reported that masked men armed with automatic weapons and a grenade launcher stormed the Charlie Hebdo office, in the ninth district in central Paris. The suspects – now reportedly identified by French police – fled and are still on the run.

French President Francois Hollande visited the scene within an hour of the attack and he described it as an act of “exceptional barbarism”.

But he added: “No barbaric act will ever kill freedom of the press”. He said France’s security alert level had been raised after the shooting.

Charlie Hebdo had been under police protection since 2011 when the magazine was firebombed after publishing a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Two policemen armed with pistols guarding the magazine office were both reportedly shot dead in the attack.

RSF’s Christophe Deloire said:

“We weep for the victims of today’s horrific attack on Charlie Hebdo, who include the cartoonists Charb [who was also the chief editor], Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski and Bernard Maris.

“Our thoughts are with these colleagues and friends, who have been taken from us by hatred. There can be no worse attack on media freedom, and all other freedoms, than to storm into a media outlet and shoot on sight.

“We will continue our fight for freedom and tolerance in the face of this barbarity. We will do it for them and for all those who have fallen in defence of such fundamental values as freedom of information.

“We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this terrorist attack.”

In Atlantic magazine, Dashiell Bennett offered this backgrounder which said in part:

Journalists around the world are expressing solidarity with the victims of a terrorist attack on a French magazine in Paris, echoing Charlie Hebdo’s relentless support of free speech in a controversy that’s nearly a decade old.

In 2005, a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a page of 12 cartoons, drawn by various artists, depicting the Prophet Mohammed. Some were innocuous pictures of unnamed Islamic figures, while others were mocking or outright critical of Islam. Many Muslims angrily objected, accusing the paper of blasphemy, and subsequent protests in early 2006 turned violent.

Some of the worst incidents took place in Nigeria, where the cartoons became the pretext for a wave of sectarian violence that killed more than 100 people, most of them Muslim.

Many other publications republished the cartoons out of solidarity to Jyllands-Posten. One of them was Charlie Hebdo, a long-running satirical magazine that had its roots in the French counterculture of the 1960s. From the very beginning, the publication had a habit of taking on French political figures and the media, often running afoul of public sensibilities and the government.

It ceased publication in the 1980s, but was resurrected under new leadership in 1992.

Following the Danish cartoon controversy, the magazine continued to make Muslim extremism a frequent target. (Although Christian and Jewish leaders were often subject to mockery as well.)

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The masked gunmen moments before they shot dead a wounded French policeman lying on the pavement. Image: Al Jazeera



  1. Yes David yes,

    We all learned in our youth not to show fear to bullies as if we do this will show weakness and the bully will then take advantage.

    Just like when confronted by wild animals avoid acting scarred then otherwise again we I again in danger of being attacked.

    While in Canada I learned not to show fear toward wild animals such as when confronted by bears in Canada or wild dogs threatening in urban City environments we live among.

    All that prey on fear know they need to see they pray show fear before they know to attack.

    The best way is to carry on as there is no effect to their perceived threats or we will be prayed upon endlessly.

  2. A country that went through la Terreur to establish the republic isn’t going to let cowards shrieking religious dogma push it back into the dark ages.

    I am Charlie.

  3. I like the fight for freedom of speech idea. I am looking forward to the series of cartoons where jesus Christ fucks his donkey before riding it into Jerusalem and how about one based on a fat lazy family of maoris who sit around doing drugs, thinking of ways to get more welfare money and smashing their kids. Oh and one called Meet the Faggots where a bunch of homo’s …….. Perhaps there should be some limits even in so called satire. If you are going to publish a picture of a naked Prophet with his arse in the air and his balls dangling perhaps you had best prepare for retaliation (I think the censor will delete this post)

    • There are plenty of examples of satirical critique of Christianity, Judaism, Atheism, Homosexuality….the difference is these folks don’t go around killing people…and neither, for that matter, do most Muslims.

      • 1000% English breakfast,

        We as members of the human family all have learned “tolerance” as a species except for a few.

  4. Did Charlie Hebdo come under attack because it contained specific information about the Prophet Mohammed that was upsetting to Moslems or because it published images that it knew would be perceived as a barbaric attack on one of the most revered religious leaders in the history of this little planet.

  5. I would support this call to widely publish Charlie Hedbo’s satirical works. That they are offensive to some is the crux of this issue, merely being offensive is insufficient grounds to censor. As Sleepy Hobbit’s posts above show, we have freedom of speech and expression, regardless of how tasteless or offensive what we say might be. This is a hard-won right which we should never surrender. It allows people to say offensive things, it also allows free and open political debate without fear or favour. Never forget that this is one of the main reasons why it is such an important right. Without it government’s can censor political speech which is in opposition to the party line.

    No matter how offensive something might be to a group of people, that doesn’t mean we should limit the right to say it.

    • Absolutely FreeManNZ.

      I find some parts of the Judea/Christian bible quite offensive. But I respect other’s right to believe in and practice the teachings of their respective *God*, as long as it doesn’t impinge on the rights or lives of anyone else.

      The offence I take is not grounds for me to intimidate Jews and Christians, by attacking their synagogues and churches.

      Same goes for media. I find some reporting particularly through msm and especially right wing blog sites, offensive to the extent I choose not to waste time reading them, so as to offend myself. However that said, media has to remain free and open, regardless of content. It is after all (supposedly!) the voice of the people. And to silence one, is to silence the other!

  6. This might also be an opportune time to lay a reef for Fernando Pereira ?
    The freelance Dutch photographer, of Portuguese origin, who drowned when French intelligence (DGSE) sabotaged and sank the Rainbow Warrior ship, owned by the environmental organisation Greenpeace on July 10, 1985.

  7. Not a subject that I consider I have any knowledge of but my gut feeling is …… through out the world, we are all different, some brought up with a totally different beliefs to our selves. There has to be zero tolerance for any violence …. but also I do not see ‘freedom of speech’ as a defence for insulting others who have such different beliefs.

  8. Yes, I agree with some sentiment expressed here, but hey, there is more to all this.

    Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite were the cry words of the French Revolution. What has become of it. We have the bourgeois French lament about “freedom being attacked”, which it was in a sense, but what “freedom”. Maybe the freedom of the bourgeoisie to read what they like to read in their spare time, amusing themselves about others, while they have secure incomes as teachers, technical experts, bureaucrats and medical professionals, all of course also working hard.

    They are though not the same as the ones living in the satellite towns of Paris, Lyon, Marseille and so forth, which I have seen, like also the “nicer” parts of those cities, when I was in France.

    The millions of Muslims, most once welcomed cheap workers to do the “dirty” work French may not have liked, in factories and so on, and then shifted onto welfare, when “globalisation” destroyed many of their jobs, they have been living on the margin for decades, have become the new proletariat, not much appreciated by the “better off” French.

    Sadly the social disaster there has led to extremism, and some choosing in their hundreds to fight wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, rather than watch silly soap operas and crap on TV in France. Others simply resign to their lot, or try to attend some odd protests, or even engage in crime to “add” a bit to their meagre incomes.

    France is a failed society, same as many “western” societies, and this will become more evident in coming years. The situation is and remains explosive, in much of Europe. There are those, mostly white locals born and bred there, mostly belonging to middle class and upper class, wanting to maintain their status and standards, there are millions that gather their rubbish and clean the streets, or get no decent jobs at all, that are from migrant communities.

    One shocking attack may be just the start of a new year of more of this happening. Breivik and like minded waited for this, the next president of France is likely to be Marie Le Pen, I am serious!

    There is NO egality, fraternity in France, it is a simple, superficial label, that survived past achievements, and is being undermined daily and continually. The same applies to NZ “Inc”, that supposed so “egalitarian” society here. It is a farce now, look at the housing situation in Auckland and Christchurch, the social statistics, only a brief dairy “boom” cushioned the disaster in development.

    Wait until we have some tensions here lead to more issues. Actually much of the crime happening, is the result of social break down, of economic exclusion and a new class society, where you are either “in” or “out”, “connected” or “disconnected”, to education, networks and also the new technologies.

    I see much modern day precariat and proletariat around me, they all try to pretend they do not belong to it, who are affected, but the day will come, that the pressures will get too great, to pretend.

    This is NOT encouraging revolt and violence, do not get me wrong, this is simply showing what is going on, what challenges there are, and what governments there and here are faced with, to resolve.

    If it does not get resolved, I think we have reason to be very worried.

    So publish your “free cartoons”, they may entertain some, but they may not even reach, or “uplift” most out there. Stuff for thought, I think.

  9. You really want to keep reading a magazine with headlines such as “With the pope in Paris, France is as dumb as niggers” – and depictions of the black justice minister as a monkey?

    Do you REALLY want to subscribe to such damaged, old racist tropes? What’s next – a minstrel show?

    • The humor in those may have been lost in translation, but the point is not whether we want to read them, but whether anyone should be killed for writing them.

      • I think we are all clear that no one should be killed for humour based on racist stereotypes, but do we want to make them out as something they are not (left wing, satirical, freedom of speech heroes) ?

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