Charlie Hebdo (French pronunciation: French for Weekly Charlie) is a French satirical weekly newspaper, featuring cartoons, reports, polemics, and jokes. Irreverent and stridently non-conformist in tone, the publication describes itself as strongly anti-racist and left-wing, publishing articles on the extreme right, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, politics, culture, etc. According to its former editor, Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), the magazine's editorial viewpoint reflects "all components of left wing pluralism, and even abstainers".
It first appeared in 1970 as a successor to the Hara-Kiri magazine. In 1981 publications ceased, but the magazine was resurrected in 1992. Charb was the most recent editor, holding the post from 2009 until his death in the attack on the magazine's offices in 2015. His predecessors were François Cavanna (1969–1981) and Philippe Val (1992–2009). The magazine is published every Wednesday, with special editions issued on an unscheduled basis.
It experienced two terrorist attacks, in 2011 and in 2015, which were presumed to be in response to a number of controversial Muhammad cartoons published by the magazine. In the latter of these attacks, twelve people were killed, including several contributors, and the editor, Charb.
In 1960, Georges "Professeur Choron" Bernier and François Cavanna launched a monthly magazine entitled Hara-Kiri. Choron acted as the director of publication and Cavanna as its editor. Eventually Cavanna gathered together a team which included Roland Topor, Fred, Jean-Marc Reiser, Georges Wolinski, Gébé (fr), and Cabu. After an early reader's letter accused them of being "dumb and nasty" ("bête et méchant"), the phrase became an official slogan for the magazine and made it into everyday language in
Hara-Kiri was briefly banned in 1961, and again for six months in 1966. A few contributors did not return along with the newspaper, such as Gébé, Cabu, Topor, and Fred. New members of the team included Delfeil de Ton, Pierre Fournier, and Willem.
In 1969, the Hara-Kiri team decided to produce a weekly publication – on top of the existing monthly magazine – which would focus more on current affairs. This was launched in February as Hara-Kiri Hebdo and renamed L'Hebdo Hara-Kiri in May of the same year. ('Hebdo' is short for 'hebdomadaire' – 'weekly')
In November 1970, the former French president Charles de Gaulle died in his home
eight days after a disaster in a nightclub, the Club Cinq-Sept fire, which
caused the death of 146 people. The magazine released a cover spoofing the
popular press's coverage of this disaster, headlined "Tragic Ball at
Colombey, one dead." As a result,
the weekly was banned. village of Colombey
In order to sidestep the ban, the editorial team decided to change its title, and used Charlie Hebdo. The new name was derived from a monthly comics magazine called Charlie Mensuel (Charlie Monthly), which had been started by Bernier and Delfeil de Ton in 1968. Charlie took its name from Charlie Brown, the lead character of Peanuts – one of the comics originally published in Charlie Mensuel – and was also an inside joke about Charles de Gaulle.
In December 1981, publication ceased.
In 1991, Gébé, Cabu and others were reunited to work for La Grosse Bertha, a new weekly magazine resembling Charlie created in reaction to the First Gulf War and edited by comic singer Philippe Val. However, the following year, Val clashed with the publisher, who wanted apolitical mischief, and was fired. Gébé and Cabu walked out with him and decided to launch their own paper again. The three called upon Cavanna, Delfeil de Ton and Wolinski, requesting their help and input. After much searching for a new name, the obvious idea of resurrecting Charlie Hebdo was agreed on. The new magazine was owned by Val, Gébé, Cabu and singer Renaud Séchan. Val was editor, Gébé artistic director.
The publication of the new Charlie Hebdo began in July 1992 amidst much publicity. The first issue under the new publication sold 100,000 copies. Choron, who had fallen out with his former colleagues, tried to restart a weekly Hara-Kiri, but its publication was short-lived. Choron died in January 2005.
On 26 April 1996, François Cavanna, Stéphane Charbonnier and Philippe Val filed 173,704 signatures, obtained in 8 months, with the aim of banning the political party Front National, since it would have contravened the articles 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
In 2000, journalist Mona Chollet was sacked after she had protested against a Philippe Val article which called Palestinians "non-civilized".
In 2004, following the death of Gébé, Val succeeded him as director of the publication, while still holding his position as editor.
Controversy arose over the publication's edition of 9 February 2006. Under the title "Mahomet débordé par les intégristes" ("Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists"), the front page showed a cartoon of a weeping Muhammad saying "C'est dur d'être aimé par des cons" ("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. Compared to a regular circulation of 100,000 sold copies, this edition enjoyed great commercial success. 160,000 copies were sold and another 150,000 were in print later that day. In response, French President Jacques Chirac condemned "overt provocations" which could inflame passions. "Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided", Chirac said. The Grand Mosque, the Muslim World League and the Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF) sued, claiming the cartoon edition included racist cartoons. A later edition contained a statement by a group of twelve writers warning against Islamism.
The suit by the Grand Mosque and the UOIF reached the courts in February 2007. Publisher Philippe Val contended "It is racist to imagine that they can't understand a joke," but Francis Szpiner, the lawyer for the Grand Mosque, explained the suit: "Two of those caricatures make a link between Muslims and Muslim terrorists. That has a name and it's called racism.".
Future president Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to be read in court expressing his support for the ancient French tradition of satire. François Bayrou and future president François Hollande also expressed their support for freedom of expression. The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) criticized the expression of these sentiments, claiming that they were politicizing a court case.
On 22 March 2007, executive editor Philippe Val was acquitted by the court. The court followed the state attorney's reasoning that two of the three cartoons were not an attack on Islam, but on Muslim terrorists, and that the third cartoon with Muhammad with a bomb in his turban should be seen in the context of the magazine in question, which attacked religious fundamentalism.
In 2008, controversy broke over a column by veteran cartoonist Siné which led to accusations of antisemitism and Siné's sacking by Val. Siné sued the newspaper for unfair dismissal and Charlie Hebdo was sentenced to pay him €90,000 in damages. Siné launched a rival paper called Siné Hebdo which later became Siné Mensuel. Charlie Hebdo launched its Internet site, after years of reluctance from Val. In 2009, Philippe Val resigned after being appointed director of France Inter, a public radio station to which he has contributed since the early 1990s. His functions were split between two cartoonists, Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier) and Riss (Laurent Sourisseau). Val gave away his shares in 2011.
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."
There have been two attacks presumed to be in retaliation: one in 2011 and one in 2015.
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 "Charia Hebdo", with Muhammad listed as the "editor-in-chief". The cover, featuring a cartoon of Muhammad by Luz (Renald 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 Guéant, the interior minister, voiced support for Charlie Hebdo, as did feminist writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who criticised calls for self-censorship.
In September 2012, the newspaper published a series of satirical cartoons of Muhammad, some of which feature nude caricatures of him. Given that this issue came days after a series of attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East, purportedly in response to the anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims, the French government decided to increase security at certain French embassies, as well as to close the French embassies, consulates, cultural centers, and international schools in about 20 Muslim countries. In addition, riot police surrounded the offices of the magazine to protect it against possible attacks.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius criticised the magazine's decision, saying, "In France, there is a principle of freedom of expression, which should not be undermined. In the present context, given this absurd video that has been aired, strong emotions have been awakened in many Muslim countries. Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?" The U.S. White House stated "a French magazine published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the Prophet Muhammad, and obviously, we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this." However, the newspaper's editor defended publication of the cartoons, saying, "We do caricatures of everyone, and above all every week, and when we do it with the Prophet, it's called provocation."
On 7 January 2015, two Islamist gunmen opened fire at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve, including staff cartoonists Charb, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous and Wolinski, economist Bernard Maris and two police officers, and wounding eleven, four of them seriously.
During the attack, the gunmen were heard to shout Allahu akbar, "the Prophet is avenged", and "I'm not killing you because you are a woman and we don't kill women but you have to convert to Islam, read the Qu'ran and wear a veil." President François Hollande described it as a "terrorist attack of the most extreme barbarity". The two gunmen were identified as Saïd Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi, both French.
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 9, 2015, the surviving staff of Charlie Hebdo – which include editor Gérard Biard (fr) and cartoonists and journalists Catherine Meurisse (fr), Patrick Pelloux (fr), Antonio Fischetti (fr), Luz (author) (fr), Willem (author) (fr), Babouse (fr) and Zineb El Rhazoui– gathered to begin work on the next issue of the magazine.
The French government granted nearly €1 million to support the magazine. The Digital Innovation Press Fund (French: Fonds Google–AIPG pour l’Innovation Numérique de la presse), partially funded by Google, donated €250,000 , matching a donation by the French Press and Pluralism Fund. The Guardian Media Group has pledged a donation of £100,000.
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. It identifies a speaker or supporter with those who were killed at the Charlie Hebdo shooting, and by extension, a supporter of freedom of speech and resistance to armed threats. Some journalists embraced the expression as a rallying cry for the freedom of self-expression.The slogan was first used on Twitter and spread to the Internet at large. The website of Charlie Hebdo went offline shortly after the shooting, and when it returned it bore the legend Je Suis Charlie on a black background. The statement was used as the hashtag #jesuischarlie on Twitter, as computer-printed or hand-made placards and stickers, and displayed on mobile phones at vigils, and on many websites, particularly media sites. While other symbols were used, notably holding pens in the air, the phrase "Not Afraid", and tweeting certain images, "Je Suis Charlie" is more widespread.