Last January, gunmen stormed the offices of French
satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and shot 12 people
dead. Another five were killed in a related attack on a
Jewish supermarket elsewhere in Paris.
The shootings prompted an outpouring of sympathy and
solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, and a flood of financial
support, but nine months on has that legacy begun to sour?
It was, as much as anything, a story of survival; of the
bravery and friendship highlighted by the horrific attack.
Survivors spoke of the close ties between staff members. A
few days after her colleagues had died, reporter Zineb el-
Rhazoui told me those left behind had “wanted to meet,
wanted to touch each other”. Creating the next issue of the
paper was a way of honouring the bonds they felt as a team,
Nine months on, the focus has switched to infighting and
resignations at Charlie Hebdo. It was like watching a
football team in transfer season, said one French journalist.
Over the past few weeks, the paper’s senior cartoonist, Luz
– the man who designed that famous green cover of the first
edition after the attacks – has announced his resignation.
And columnist Patrick Pelloux has announced he will leave
by the end of the year.
“Charlie Hebdo died on 7 January, and part of us died with
the victims,” Mr Pelloux told me.
“We had to go on, to show our courage. But being strong is
also about being able to turn a page and letting others take
on the fight. Charlie Hebdo is dead. Today there is a new
Charlie Hebdo – one that has become a world symbol of free
speech and good journalism.”
Shortly after the attacks, more than a million people
marched through the streets of Paris to show solidarity with
Almost overnight, the paper and its staff became a
worldwide symbol for free speech. And that is a lot of
pressure for anyone, says Laurent Joffrin, editor of France’s
“A working-class hero is a hard thing to be, and a freedom
of speech hero is a hard thing to be,” he says. “They were
not trained to become that – they were trained to do
drawings in their small paper.”
For most of the next nine months, Charlie Hebdo’s small
team of staff worked out of the offices of the French
Now they have just moved to a new permanent home. But
Mr Joffrin says the continued security risk still weighs
heavy on every member of staff.
“The threat against them is very high,” he told me.
“Every Islamist in the world dreams of killing one of those
guys. And so they have to live in their apartments with their
curtains closed because they’re afraid of snipers. They live
in the dark. And it’s probably going to last the rest of their
lives. It shows that those who go on are especially
Mr Joffrin says the paper has not changed its values as a
result of the attack.
But others disagree. Both Luz and the paper’s new director,
Riss, have said they are not drawing the Prophet
Reporter Zineb el-Rhazoui says she is worried that security
fears are prompting a change of editorial direction.
“I wonder if this is a kind of withdrawal, in order to make the
terrorists more serene, and forget us. If it is such a strategy,
I believe it’s a wrong strategy because when you accept the
limits they want to put on you, they will put other limits on
Zineb el-Rhazoui, along with 14 other staff, published an
open letter earlier this year, calling for the paper to stay true
to its values.
But the editorial disputes, common to any media
organisation, have been complicated by another,
unexpected consequence of the January attack: money.
“It’s complicated things,” she says.
“Charlie Hebdo was a poor newspaper before the attacks,
and after 7 January we received money from everywhere, a
lot of money. We became one of the richest newspapers in
France. And the problem is that the money and the power to
make decisions are concentrated in the hands of just two
The attacks killed three of the paper’s five shareholders,
including its founder and director, Charb.
The surviving shareholders, including Riss, have said that
100% of the profits from this year will be reinvested into the
Donations will be divided up among the victims and their
families – but even that is causing disputes over how to
share out the funds.
For some, the human loss on 7 January has also meant the
loss of something essential at the paper. To paraphrase
Patrick Pelloux: Charlie Hebdo is dead, long live Charlie
Paris attack victims :
Charlie Hebdo offices:
Charlie Hebdo editor and cartoonist Stephane “Charb”
Charbonnier, 47, who had been living under police
protection since receiving death threats
Cartoonists Jean “Cabu” Cabut, 76, Bernard “Tignous”
Verlhac, 57, Georges Wolinski, 80, and Philippe Honore,
Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and columnist, the only
Economist and regular magazine columnist Bernard
Maris, 68, known to readers as Uncle Bernard
Michel Renaud, visiting from the city of Clermont-
Mustapha Ourrad, proof-reader
Police officer Ahmed Merabet, 42, who was shot dead in
a nearby street after the attack
Frederic Boisseau, 42, caretaker, in the reception area
at the time of the attack
Franck Brinsolaro, 49, a police officer who acted as
Clarissa Jean-Philippe, 27, policewoman killed in the
suburb of Montrouge
Yohan Cohen, 20, worked at kosher supermarket
Philippe Braham, 45, business manager for an IT
Yoav Hattab, 21, student and youngest supermarket
Francois-Michel Saada, 64, former pension fund