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Je suis Charlie; it’s my story

By Adya Bahera

Edited by Namrata Caleb

Yes, I am Charlie. Je suis Charlie(I am Charlie) is the slogan adopted by supporters of free speech and freedom of expression after the 7th January,2015 massacre in which 12 people were killed, including editor Stephane Charbonnier (Charb), at the office of the satirical newspaper CHARLIE HEBDO in Paris, France. Je suis Charlie declares weeping Prophet Mohammed as the new Charlie Hebdo cartoon. This barbaric act has certainly questioned the integrity of freedom of speech and expression.

Widely known for its ups and downs filled past, the French satirical weekly magazine features cartoons, reports, polemics and jokes. Non-conformist in tone, the publication describes itself as strongly anti-racist and left-wing, publishing articles on the extreme right, religion, politics, etc. But the recent barbaric acts have questioned the freedom of speech and expression of the magazine. The magazine has been the target of two terrorist attacks, in 2011 and in 2015, presumed to be in response to a number of controversial Muhammad cartoons it published.

Controversy arose when the edition of 9th February, 2006 carried a front page showing a cartoon of weeping Muhammad saying “it’s hard being loved by jerks”. The newspaper reprinted the twelve cartoons of the Jyllands Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy and added some of their own. This edition was a commercial success. Some 160,000 copies were sold and another 150.000 were in print later that day. In response, the then president of France, President Jacques Chirac condemned “overt provocation” which could inflame passions. He even commented that anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious conviction, should be avoided”. But few high profile people like Nicolas Sarkozy, Francois Bayrou and Francois Hollande expressed their support for freedom of expression and extended their arm to the ancient French tradition of satire.

Charlie Hebdo is the successor to the the Hara-Kiri magazine which was banned for mocking the death of former French president Charles de Gaulle. In 1960, Georges “Professeur Choron” Bernier and Francois Cavanna launched a monthly magazine entitled Hara-Kiri. Choron acted as the director of publication and Cavanna as its editor. In order to sidestep the ban the editorial team changed the name to Charlie Hebdo. This was the start of Charlie’s journey.

The paper’s controversial 3 November 2011 issue, renamed “Charia Hebdo” (a reference to Sharia law) and “guest-edited” by Muhammad, depicted Muhammad saying: “100 lashes of the whip if you don’t die laughing.”

In the early hours of 2 November 2011, the newspaper’s office in the 20th arrondissement was fire-bombed and its website hacked. The attacks were presumed to be linked to its decision to rename a special edition “HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia” \o “Sharia”Charia Hebdo”, with Muhammad listed as the “editor-in-chief”.[27] The cover, featuring a cartoon of Muhammad by Luz (Rénald Luzier), had circulated on social media for a couple of days.

Charb was quoted by AP stating that the attack might have been carried out by “stupid people who don’t know what Islam is” and that they are “idiots who betray their own religion”. Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, said his organisation deplores “the very mocking tone of the paper toward Islam and its prophet but reaffirms with force its total opposition to all acts and all forms of violence.” François Fillon, the prime minister, and Claude Gueant, the interior minister, voiced support for Charlie Hebdo, as did feminist writer HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayaan_Hirsi_Ali” \o “Ayaan Hirsi Ali”Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who criticised calls for self-censorship.

On 7 January 2015, two Islamist gunmen forced their way into and opened fire in the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve, including staff cartoonists HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charb” \o “Charb”Charb, HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabu” \o “Cabu”Cabu, HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tignous” \o “Tignous”Tignous and HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Wolinski” \o “Georges Wolinski”Wolinski, economist Bernard Maris and two police officers, and wounding eleven, four of them seriously.

During the attack, the gunmen shouted “HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allahu_akbar” \o “Allahu akbar”Allahu akbar” and also “the Prophet is avenged”. President François Hollande described it as a “terrorist attack of the most extreme barbarity”. The two gunmen were identified as Said Kouachi and HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A9rif_Kouachi” \o “Chérif Kouachi”Cherif Kouachi, French Muslim brothers of Algerian descent.

The  day after the attack, the remaining staff of Charlie Hebdo announced that publication would continue, with the following week’s edition of the newspaper to be published according to the usual schedule with a print run of one million copies, up significantly from its usual 60,000. On January 13, 2015 the news came on BBC that the first issue after the massacre would come out in 3 million copies. On Wednesday itself it was announced that due to a huge demand in France, the print run would be raised from 3 to 5 million copies. The French government granted nearly €1 million to support the magazine. After the attacks, the phrase Je suis Charlie, French for “I am Charlie”, was adopted by supporters of free speech and freedom of expression who were reacting to the shootings.

Adya Behera is a 19 year old and a privileged economics Hons student of LSR, Delhi, she has been connected with the economics since last 3 years. With a will to serve the nation it shall be the endeavor of the incumbent  to put light on the current topics and put forth the view of the columnist.

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