Seven weeks after attack, Charlie Hebdo resumes regular publication

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo returned to newsstands on Wednesday with its first regular issue since Islamist extremists gunned down 12 people in an attack on its headquarters.

The magazine had published a special “survivors issue” last month, but the new issue marked its return to regular weekly publication, seven weeks after the attackers killed its editor and some of France’s best known cartoonists.

The cover of Wednesday’s edition features a cartoon depicting a range of political and religious figures -- although not, this time, the prophet Muhammad, whose depiction in the past offended many Muslims and apparently led to the attack on the publication.


Among those shown, caricatured as part of a pack of dogs, are the far-right Front National party leader Marine Le Pen, former President Nicolas Sarkozy, Pope Francis, a jihadist, a banker and a TV news crew.

They are trying to catch another dog that has a copy of Charlie Hebdo in its mouth. The headline reads, in French: “ ... here we go again!”

The cover was drawn by Renald Luzier, known as Luz, who escaped the attack on the magazine because he was late for work.

Inside there is an interview with Yanis Varoufakis, the recently appointed Greek finance minister, rejecting further European Union-imposed austerity measures, a review of the movie “American Sniper” and a cartoon of the recent trial of the former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, on charges of aggravated pimping.

“It has a side that’s joyful, a bit innocent,” Luzier told France Info radio. “And it’s important to show we’re not obsessed by what we’ve suffered because we could talk about it for hours, for whole pages and pages and entire newspapers. Now we have to go back to what Charlie is all about.”

Luzier explained why there were no cartoons of Muhammad in the latest edition.

“The problem is that everyone talks about Charlie and Muhammad, but nobody has talked that much about Charlie’s ecology battle, or that it is against the National Front,” Luzier said.

The magazine makes reference to last week’s attacks on a free-speech debate and a synagogue in Copenhagen, which left two people dead and five police officers wounded.

The special survivors issue of Charlie Hebdo was rushed out the week after the Jan. 7 attack. That issue featured a caricature of a weeping prophet Muhammad carrying a “Je Suis Charlie” (“I Am Charlie”) sign. The headline, intentionally ambiguous, said: “All is Forgiven.”

“Je Suis Charlie” had become a defiant slogan taken up around the world to mark solidarity with France and the victims in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the magazine. It led to many variations -- and to a considerable backlash among people who rejected the magazine’s tradition of no-holds-barred satire, even if they condemned the attack on its staff.

The killers, French-born Said and Cherif Kouachi, claimed they were “avenging the prophet” as they fled the magazine offices after gunning down down editor Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier and cartoonists Georges Wolinski and Jean Cabut, known as Cabu. Other staff and two police officers also died in the attack.

An apparent accomplice, Amedy Coulibaly, killed a female police officer the following day before storming a kosher supermarket in the east of Paris and killing four Jewish men.

About 8 million copies of the survivors’ special issue were published. Before the attacks, Charlie Hebdo struggled to sell a modest weekly print run that ranged from 24,000 to 50,000 issues, and was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

Wednesday’s edition had a print run of 2.5 million. Charlie Hebdo now has 200,000 subscribers, compared with about 10,000 before the January attack.

The magazine has long courted controversy by satirizing a large cross-section of political and religious figures. It first came under threat after it published Danish caricatures of the prophet Muhammad in 2006.

In his interview with France Info, Luzier made reference to tensions among surviving staff over what to do with the $11.34 million raised by sales of the survivors edition and donations following the attack.

“What are we going to do with it? We won’t be buying diamond pencils, that’s for sure,” Luzier said.

Willsher is a special correspondent