The French Media Reacts to the Charlie Hebdo Massacre

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Today in Paris, attackers opened fire on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, in what is said to be retribution for controversial cartoons the magazine has published over the years. The French media has reacted with understandable horror, with some raising questions about how such an attack could happen.

In an editorial for Le Nouvel Observateur, Françoise Degois wrote, “Overwhelmed. Shocked. Revolted. Only these adjectives work for this moment.” She went on to emphasize the question of security: “Why? But more importantly, how? How did this commando get into this area that was known to be a target, even considering a drop-off in the daily surveillance detail?”

The director of Le Monde, Gilles van Kote, reacted in its pages, saying that the tragedy “only reinforces our belief that it is necessary to fight against ignorance, intolerance, obscurantism and fanaticism. It is more vital than ever to remember that freedom of the press is not negotiable.”

Essayist Axel Kahn, who was close friends with two of the victims, Cabu and Bernard Maris, wrote in Le Nouvel Observateur that they upheld “freedom of thought, of creation, of critique, of self-mockery.” Kahn continued by decrying the incident as an example of “humanity negated and massacred.”

The Syndicat National des Journalistes, a French trade union, has asked that newsrooms around the world participate in a moment of silence, since, as they said in a statement, “It is freedom of speech that has been assassinated … When journalists are killed, it is done to make an entire profession feel fear; it is done to silence.” The staff of the newspaper Le Parisien was among those to observe such a moment of silence, as documented by staffer Frédéric Gerschel.

Many French journalists took to Twitter in response, using the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, and making plans for a march tonight at Place de la République. Soren Seelow of Le Monde posted an image of some protestors who had already gathered with signs. 

French cartoonists have been publishing their own artistic responses in solidarity, for example, Le Monde’s Martin Vidberg, who posted his with the message, “How can I draw today? How can I not draw today?”

Earlier today, Charlie Hebdo reinstated its website, which just displays the #JeSuisCharlie logo. While the future of the magazine remains unclear, Radio France, Le Monde, and France Télévisions have issued a joint statement (as posted by Le Monde’s Luc Bronner) offering “the human resources and materials needed so that the magazine can continue to live,” and inviting other media groups to do the same.