The 7th of this month marked two years to the day since two gunmen walked into the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris and murdered twelve people. This period also therefore marks the second anniversary of the period of about an hour during which much of the free world proclaimed itself to be “Charlie” and attempted, by walking through the street, standing for moments of silence or re-tweeting the hashtag “Je Suis Charlie” to show the whole world that freedom cannot be suppressed and that the pen is mightier than the Kalashnikov.
So two years on is a good time to take stock of the situation. How did that go? Did all those “Je Suis” statements amount to anything more than a blip on the Twitter-sphere? Anyone trying to answer such a question might start by looking at the condition of the journal everyone was so concerned about. How has it fared in the two years since most of its senior editorial staff were gunned down by the blasphemy police?
Not well, if a test of the magazine’s wellbeing is whether it would be willing to repeat the “crime” for which it was attacked. Six months after the slaughter, in July 2015, the new editor of the publication, Laurent Sourisseau, announced that Charlie Hebdo would no longer publish depictions of the Prophet of Islam. Charlie Hebdo had, he said, “done its job” and “defended the right to caricature.” It had published more Muhammad cartoons in the issue immediately after the mass murder at their offices and since. But, he said, they did not need to keep on doing so. Few people could have berated him and his colleagues for such a decision. When just about every other magazine in the free world fails to uphold the values of free speech and the right to caricature and offend, who could expect a group of cartoonists and writers who have already paid such a high price to keep holding the line of such freedoms single-handed?
Now, at the second anniversary of the atrocity, one of the magazine’s most prominent figures, Zineb El Rhazoui, has announced that she is leaving the magazine. El Rhazoui, who has been described as “the most protected woman in France” because of the security detail she receives from the French state, has announced that Charlie Hebdo has gone “soft” on Islamic radicalism. She told Agence France-Presse that “Charlie Hebdo died on [7 January 2015].” The magazine had previously had a “capacity to carry the torch of irreverence and absolute liberty” she said. “Freedom at any cost is what I loved about Charlie Hebdo, where I worked through great adversity.’
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