Over the last week, we have been in mourning for the twelve innocent people assassinated at the Charlie Hebdo magazine headquarters, and the five others killed in related attacks in Paris.
These terrorist attacks, the most deadly in France since the 1960s, have rocked the entire world and sent collective millions into a state of shock and grief, both over the loss of life and the threat to freedom of expression.
In solidarity with the survivors, dedication to the victims and support of the right to free speech, millions have also embraced the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie on social media, making it the most popular tag in Twitter history.
Vigils have been held across the world, including in Melbourne, allowing the French and international communities to unite in support of the employees of Charlie Hebdo, as well as the broader principles the magazine stands for. The images circulating around the Internet of the crowds of thousands sends a powerful message. The attacks were fuelled by hatred but, for the most part, the response has been peaceful. Coming soon after the Sydney siege and the subsequent #IllRideWithYou campaign, it is heartening to see the majority response driven by strength and solidarity.
France has a proud history of left-wing publishing, satirical journalism and widespread support for the right to self-expression. From the traditions of the beloved bande dessinée to the political and symbolic significance of newspapers like Charlie Hebdo and Le Canard Enchainé, the cartoon is very much a part of journalistic expression in France.
Charlie Hebdo and its cartoonists were reportedly targeted for their satirical representation of the Prophet Muhammed. It is therefore extremely significant that this week’s edition is not only going ahead, but again features the Prophet on its cover. But this time, he appears in a very different way: holding a sign reading “Je Suis Charlie” and standing beneath the following words:
“Tout est pardonné”; “All is forgiven”.
By Gemma King.