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Charlie Hebdo editor continues to fear for paper two years after massacre

Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP | Archival picture shows candles, a rose and a sign that reads "I am Charlie" at a vigil in Marseille in January 2015.

Days ahead of the two-year anniversary of the attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, its new chief editor warned Wednesday that intolerance in France is on the rise.


Millions of people in France brandished the phrase “Je suis Charlie” in the wake of the gruesome January 7, 2015 attack at the paper’s Paris headquarters that left 11 people dead. It soon became a rallying cry for freedom of expression around the world.

But as the country marks the second anniversary of the carnage this week, cartoonist Riss believes intolerance has actually gained ground in French society.

“If we printed a cartoon of [the Prophet] Mohamed tomorrow, who would stand up for us?” asked Riss, who took over from Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier after he was killed in the attack.

“Before there were two or three retrograde groups that harassed us. Now we get the feeling that the entire world is keeping an eye on us. As if Charlie Hebdo’s freedom, even when it is exercised modestly, was too much,” he told the AFP news agency.

“Sometimes I get the impression that for the past two years people take interest in Charlie Hebdo only for the sake of emotion, drama, instead of looking at the very difficult political problems that these attacks represent,” he added.

The satirical paper sparked widespread anger in September after it ran a cartoon poking fun at the 6.2-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 180 people in the Italian town of Amatrice. Earlier in the year it drew criticism for depictions of a drowned Syrian refugee toddler, whose body washed up on a Turkish beach.

Angering Putin

The publication marked the grim anniversary in typical style with a front-cover cartoon showing a laughing man staring down the barrel of a jihadist's AK-47 rifle with the caption: "2017, at last, the light at the end of the tunnel."

Riss, whose real name is Laurent Sourisseau, said the number of threats received by the staff was increasing. "Before they told us to be careful of Islamists. Now we must look out for Islamists, Russians and Turks," he said.

That was partly a reference to a protest from Russian President Vladimir Putin over a cartoon published in December after dozens of members of a Red Army choir were killed in a plane crash.

It showed a choir member in uniform singing the wailing sound "AAAAA" as the plane plunges, under the title: "The Red Army choir's repertoire is expanding."

The anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo murders was marked on Thursday, two days early, in low-key ceremonies in Paris led by the city's mayor Anne Hidalgo.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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