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Charlie Hebdo awarded special prize at French comics festival

Pierre Duffour, AFP I The most recent issue of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on display at Angoulême

French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo was awarded a special prize at the 42nd International Angoulême Comics Festival on Thursday, three weeks after two gunmen killed 12 people in an attack on the publication’s office in Paris.

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The special Grand Prix was created following the January 7 attack on Charlie Hebdo, which claimed the lives of some of France’s most beloved cartoonists.

“The festival’s special Grand Prix has been awarded to Charlie Hebdo in homage to the artists killed and their necessary fight for freedom of expression, so that the work by all those who have contributed to this essential publication of the French press will live on in our memories,” the festival’s organisers said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Katsuhiro Otomo was honoured with the festival’s first-place prize, becoming the first manga cartoonist ever to win it. The 60-year-old is the creator of the cult manga series Akira, which is set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo built on the ashes of a city destroyed by a blast that triggered World War III.

The festival opened earlier in the day in the southwestern town of Angoulême under tight security, a solemn reminder of this month’s deadly attacks in Paris.

"The 2015 festival will be a time for remembering, but we also want to show that life goes on," festival director Franck Bondoux said.

Graphic novel writers, press cartoonists and animators were among the stars in attendance at the festival, which this year features special displays on Asian cartoons and Jack Kirby, creator of "Captain America", "Hulk" and the "X-Men".

Honouring Charlie Hebdo

In addition to the special Grand Prix a number of special commemorations have been planned to honour the victims of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, including the inauguration of a new "Charlie Award for Freedom of Expression".

The prize will this year go to the cartoonists killed in the assault on the magazine, whose past caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed were highly controversial and were cited by the attackers as the reason for their killing spree.

In the future, the prize will be awarded to artists fighting for free speech around the world.

The festival organisers also collected over a thousand contributions from artists around the world in homage to Charlie Hebdo, and a special album entitled "Comics are Charlie" was being prepared with the help of 173 well-known cartoonists.

The town was plastered with the cover pages of past issues of Charlie Hebdo and an exhibition gathering together documents and drawings by the publication’s cartoonists attracted crowds of people.

"Their deaths had an awful impact on the world of cartoonists. Some called me in tears. For many, they were role models," said Jean-Pierre Mercier, one of the managers of the exhibition.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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