Holding up pencils in a free speech demonstration in Barcelona
Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine, published every Wednesday, that was founded in 1969 though it stopped publishing between 1981 and 1992. Known best for its illustrations and provocative imagery, the magazine aims to mock all forms of authority, from politicians to religion to the military. Its ideological roots are left-wing and atheist — with religion in all its forms a constant target.
In 2006, the paper reprinted images of the Prophet Mohamed that had appeared in a Danish magazine a year before. The next year, it published a picture of Mohamed crying, with the tagline “It’s hard to be loved by idiots.” The Grand Mosque of Paris and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, among other similar religious bodies, filed slander charges at the time, but a French court cleared the paper.
The magazine’s offices were set on fire by a molotov cocktail in November 2011 after it published a cartoon of the Prophet Mohamed saying “100 lashes of the whip if you don’t die laughing.” The firebomb forced the publication to relocate to their current offices in the 11th borough of Paris. Editorial staff were often threatened: The magazine’s director, Stephane Charbonnier (better known to readers under his illustration pen name of Charb), had a personal bodyguard. A French man was arrested in 2012 after he called on a jihadist site to have Mr. Charbonnier decapitated. Mr. Charbonnier was among those killed Wednesday.
Stephane Charbonnier after the 2011 bombing. “It is perhaps a bit pompous to say so but I prefer to die on my feet than live on my knees.”