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Charlie Hebdo cash donations ‘doing more harm than good’

DAMIEN MEYER / AFP

The deluge of cash that descended on satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo after the murderous attack on the publication in January may well turn out to be a poisoned chalice.

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Eleven members of the small publication’s employees announced in last Wednesday’s weekly staff meeting that they want stock options in the newspaper.

Charlie Hebdo has benefitted from almost 30 million euros in donations and enormously boosted sales in the wake of the January 7 shootings, in which 11 people were killed and another 11 injured.

Charlie Hebdo is 40 percent owned by the parents of Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, the senior cartoonist who was murdered in the attack.

Another 40 percent belongs to cartoonist Laurent "Riss" Sourisseau, who has replaced Charbonnier as managing editor, while 20 percent is owned by managing director Eric Porteault.

The demand for shares in the company to be divided equally among the surviving members of staff was supported by heavyweights in the editorial team including physician and activist Patrick Pelloux and cartoonist Renald "Luz" Luzier.

Pelloux told AFP he and the others had “no conflict with the management”.

“But considering what has happened, the employees want to become shareholders in the business from now on,” he added. “When an organization is decimated the way ours was, the attachment of the survivors becomes total. This isn’t about getting a slice of the pie. The money doesn’t interest us.”

But the management is not impressed. One of the newspaper’s lawyers, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the management was “a long way from wanting to start talking stock options”.

“All this cash is doing more harm than good,” he said. “It’s like those funerals where relatives bicker over who’s getting grandmother’s jewels before she’s even buried.”

“The priority has to be getting the Charlie Hebdo to the newsstands every Wednesday, sorting out the tax implications [the donations are taxed at 60 percent] and making sure the money goes to the victims’ families,” he added. “The money made through sales will go into the company account and is destined for the creation of a foundation to support freedom of speech.”

The attack on Charlie Hebdo was the start of three days of violence in France that culminated with a total of 16 people killed at the newspaper’s offices and at a Jewish supermarket in eastern Paris.

The attacks produced a national outpouring of solidarity in support of freedom of speech, as well as numerous donations from France and abroad to Charlie Hebdo, whose editorial board had been decimated in the attack.

The first edition of the newspaper after the attack sold almost eight million copies in six languages. The average print run last year was 60,000 per week.

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