3 Years After the Charlie Hebdo Terror Attacks, the Satirical Magazine Struggles with £1.3m Security Bill

Business | January 7, 2018, Sunday // 14:53
Bulgaria: 3 Years After the Charlie Hebdo Terror Attacks, the Satirical Magazine Struggles with £1.3m Security Bill File photo, EPA/BGNES

Charlie Hebdo is struggling with an annual security bill of ?1.5 million (£1.32m) as President Emmanuel Macron leads commemorations on the third anniversary of the terror attack on the satirical weekly on Sunday, Sunday Telegraph writes. 

Sales have slumped after surging to an unprecedented 7 million copies following the attack on 7 January 2015.

Saïd and Chérif Kouachi murdered 12 people including five cartoonists and journalists, all household names in France. 

The attack triggered a wave of international solidarity.

Many people defended Charlie Hebdo’s characteristically provocative, irreverent cartoons, which often lampoon the Prophet Mohammed. 

Public support for the weekly has since fallen after its cartoons caused offence by poking fun at earthquake and terror victims.

Sales of the niche newspaper have tumbled back to about 30,000, close to pre-attack levels. But death threats continue to flood in on social media, forcing the newspaper to install security systems and hire bodyguards in addition to police protection.

In its latest issue, under the headline “Three years in a tin can,” Laurent Sourisseau, the director of the publication and its main shareholder, complained that Charlie has been left to fend for itself. 

“Is it normal for a newspaper in a democratic country that one out of every two copies sold goes on paying for the security of its offices?”, wrote Riss, as he is known.

The attack and others that killed a policewoman and four Jews the same week horrified the nation.

Nearly four million people marched through Paris days later under the banner “Je Suis Charlie”, and David Cameron and other world leaders joined the march and the slogan became a global rallying cry for supporters of free speech.

Since then, 241 people have died in a wave of terror attacks in France. Even in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, some commentators, especially outside France, expressed concern about its repeated jibes at the Prophet Mohammed, arguing that they showed a lack of cultural sensitivity.

An increasing number of French people now believe the weekly takes satire beyond the boundaries of good taste.

Several issues drew sharp criticism for lampooning those killed when a Russian airliner was downed over Egypt in an attack claimed by Isil in 2016, poking fun at Alan Kurdi, a Syrian migrant boy found dead on a Turkish beach in September 2015, and joking about the victims of a 2016 earthquake in Italy.

Guillaume Erner, a journalist at the newspaper, said that the country had turned its back on Charlie after turning it into a symbol.

“Amazingly, we are not very much supported by the country,” he said. “The country wanted us to be angels. We are not angels at all.”

Hostility to Charlie Hebdo often arose from a failure to understand its abrasive, iconoclastic humour, rooted in the student rebellions of the 1960s, he argued. 

Those identifying with the motto “Je Suis Charlie” have fallen from 71 per cent two years ago to 61 per cent today, according to a poll by the national Institute for Public Opinion (IFOP).

The survey was released as 1,500 people, including a host of French celebrities and politicians, attended a memorial event on Saturday at the slightly incongruous venue of the Folies Bergères cabaret, best known for musical productions featuring showgirls.

Younger French people and the less well-off are the least likely to back Charlie, the poll indicated. Among those who do not identify with the motto “Je Suis Charlie”, 38 per cent believe that the newspaper’s cartoons and satire “go too far”.

Philippe Val, a former director of the newspaper, said: “If people are no longer with Charlie, if Charlie disappears, it will mean that while Daesh (Isil) may have been defeated on the ground in Syria, but here in France, they’ve won.”

Among those at the Folies Bergères were Manuel Valls, a former prime minister, Inna Shevchenko, the founder of the Femen group known for topless feminist protests, and the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, forced into exile after an Islamist group put a price on her head.

Charlie Hebdo itself was represented by its editor-in-chief, Gérard Biard, but many staffers stayed away for security reasons. 

Mr Macron is to visit the site of the attack in eastern Paris on Sunday and government ministers will attend a memorial ceremony.

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Tags: Charlie Hebdo, France, Paris, terror attack, security bill
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