Republication of Controversial Cartoon by Charlie Hebdo

Published: September 3, 2020

Charlie Hebdo have reprinted the controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed to mark start of trial against alleged accomplices to 2005 attack. Charlie Hebdo was the target of a massacre by Islamist gunmen in 2015. The new issue has a dozen cartoons mocking the prophet of Islam, reproducing images that sparked protests when first published and a debate about the limits of freedom of speech.

What is the issue?

Twelve people, including some of France’s most celebrated cartoonists, were killed on January 7, 2015 in a gun rampage at the paper’s offices in Paris. Though, the perpetrators were killed in the wake of the massacre but 14 alleged accomplices in the attacks, which also targeted a Jewish supermarket. So, the caricatures were reprinted a day before the scheduled opening of the trial of 14 suspected accomplices who were accused of providing logistic and material support to the two terrorists.

Background

The cartoons were first published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on September 30, 2005, and subsequently reprinted by Charlie Hebdo the following year. Jyllands-Posten claimed that the cartoons were meant to serve as a commentary on the culture of fear and self-censorship within the Danish media. Later, an attempt was made to sue Charlie Hebdo in France for the hate speech but was defeated in court. In 2011 and 2012, the magazine again published illustrations that were offensive to Muslims, and triggered criticism and a backlash that included a firebomb attack on its office.

Why republication?

Some people believe that by republishing the cartoons a day before the landmark trial, the French publication want to make a loud and defiant statement in support of free speech and expression. While others have said that it’s a provocative action.

These cartoons were condemned by Muslim groups, which said they were blasphemous. They were also criticized strongly for furthering stereotypes about Muslims, and for unfairly branding them as terrorists.

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