New Charlie Hebdo issue marks return to business as usual
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Seven weeks after two gunmen killed 12 people in an attack on the offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, the newspaper’s newest issue was released on Wednesday as it resumes normal publication.
"We needed a break, a rest... There were those who needed to work again straight away, like me, and those who wanted to take more time," says Gérard Biard, the publication’s new chief editor. "So we reached a compromise, and agreed on February 25... to start off again on a weekly basis."
If the cover of Charlie Hebdo’s next issue says anything, it’s that it will be business as usual at the publication. It features an illustration of a range of political and religious figures – including former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, a jihadist and the pope – as a pack of rabid dogs, with the headline: “… Here we go again!”
The issue hits newsstands on Wednesday.
The satirical weekly has a long history of courting controversy, lampooning political and religious figures of all stripes.
The two men who attacked Charlie Hebdo, brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, claimed that the massacre was in revenge for the paper’s past caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. Many Muslims consider any depiction of the prophet as blasphemous.
In an act of defiance, the cover of Charle Hebdo’s “survivors’ issue” featured a teary-eyed Prophet Mohammed brandishing a “Je Suis Charlie” sign beneath the headline “All Is Forgiven”.
"Je Suis Charlie" was the slogan taken up around the world to express solidarity with the weekly after the attacks.
Some eight million copies were printed, a stunning number for a publication that had been struggling to stay afloat with a circulation of just 60,000 before the attack.
But the January 14 cartoon once again stirred anger, triggering sometimes deadly protests in several Muslim countries.
Back to the drawing board
As per tradition, the publication’s new cover was decided on Monday, to ensure that it was as timely as possible.
Ahead of the cover’s release, Biard said that the issue will inevitably deal with extremism, particularly in light of the shootings in Copenhagen on February 14 and 15, which echoed the Paris attacks.
"It's just as relevant as before. I know some will say that we are obsessed, but we're not the ones who are obsessed," Biard said. "It's those who create the news who are obsessed. And those who create it are terrorists."
"After Copenhagen, we will be forced to talk about it again. But there's also Dominique Strauss-Kahn, it's lucky we have him!"
Biard was referring to the former head of the International Monetary Fund, whose trial on charges of "aggravated pimping" this month brought to light salacious details of his sex life.
Wednesday's issue will also address the debt crisis in Greece, featuring an interview with the country's new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.
"For this issue, we're starting over. The funerals have taken place, we have to make do with the absence of the others, and that's where it's tough," Charlie Hebdo columnist Patrick Pelloux said in a television interview.
"We've been realising for some time that they didn't just go away on holiday. The newspaper, just like any newspaper, must continue because life goes on, the news continues,” he added.
The editorial team is still working out of the offices of left-wing daily Libération, where they relocated following the attack, but they are thinking of moving in a few weeks.
They visited a location in a southern district of Paris, but security now dictates their choices.
"Nothing is certain about these premises," Biard said, adding that a study was under way to determine whether the site could be fitted with a secure entrance.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)