12 killed at satirical magazine

At least 12 people have been killed by two gunmen at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris this morning – 10 staff and two police officers. Five others are seriously wounded. Charlie Hebdo has been threatened for publishing cartoons about Islam and  was attacked with a firebomb in 2011.

Two gunmen were seen with assault rifles, who are on the run.

‘Because we are a country of liberty, we face threats,’ French president François Holland said after the killings.

Charlie Hebdo has always been controversial. The nearest British equivalent would be Private Eye. The weekly launched in 1969 with a viciously satirical agenda that led to issues being banned or seized as it took on every sacred cow in French society from the start. In its first year, it was banned for its comments on the death of General de Gaulle. Its closure at the end of 1981 led to a fight during a televised debate about the magazine.  It was revived in 1992. Stephane Charbonnier (Charb) has been editor since 2012.

In 1996, it was fined for for libel and abuse after complaints by a National Front mayor and another politician. Charlie Hebdo’s reaction was that the conviction marked the death of the right to write satire and an effort to bring down a satirical publication.

In 1997, it claimed that 15,000 women in France had been sterilised against their will, including Down’s Syndrome sufferers.

The French right wing is a regular target: Charlie Hebdo once claimed to have registered the National Front’s trademark after the party failed to renew its right to the name. ‘Better to be fucked by Chirac than raped by Le Pen’ is one of its famous political quotes.

In 2006, the magazine fought off a law suit by five Muslim groups who tried to block it publishing the caricatures of the prophet Mohammed from Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that had led to violent protests and deaths worldwide. The magazine ran its own caricature across the front page. The US administration blamed Syria and Iran for inciting violence among Muslims over the cartoons and most US papers did not publish them. French president Jacques Chirac condemned ‘overt provocations’ that could inflame passions. Charlie Hebdo put out a second printing of the issue after it sold out within hours.

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