Cartoonists Show Solidarity After Paris Massacre

Wednesday's mass shooting, which targeted the staff of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, led cartoonists groups worldwide to stand together in support of free speech—and against terrorist intimidation.

Cartoonists around the world are standing strong in response to what French President François Hollande has declared an act of terrorism and an attack on freedom of the press.

Details of Wednesday’s shooting at the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, which led to the deaths of 10 employees, including editor Stéphane Charbonnier and three well-known cartoonists, are still emerging. Also killed were two police officers, one of whom was assigned to protect the offices.

A police spokesman said at least three attackers were involved. It is widely believed that the motive for the attack was retribution for the publication’s satirical portrayals of Islam, which led to a previous attack against the newspaper in 2011. For example, just minutes before the shooting, Charlie Hebdo tweeted a cartoon mocking the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:

In the wake of the attack, numerous professional groups denounced the shooting, including:

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists: In a statement, AAEC emphasized that newspapers should not shy away from publishing sensitive subject matter, because “shrinking from a newspaper’s watchdog role only encourages more terror.” The group said attacks like this one “only serve to illustrate how important the free spirit of cartoon commentary is, and how cartoonists make a difference in helping to expose hypocrisy.”

National Cartoonists Society: NCS spoke out strongly against the gunmen, while noting that their actions do not represent Islam. “This was the work of insecure cowards who apparently fear their religion is so weak that it can’t withstand criticism, and who must fear the God they purport to worship isn’t big enough, strong enough, or wise enough to take a joke,” the group said in a statement. “The NCS would like to point out these three criminals do not represent the religion of Islam, but are murderers taking lives of their own accord.” The group added that “an attack on free speech anywhere is an attack on free speech everywhere.”

Cartoonists Rights Network International: CRNI, an advocacy group that promotes free speech, urged cartoonists and media to make full use the tools at their disposal. “CRNI encourages political cartoonists of all stripes and political persuasions all over the world to make their opinions about free speech and this particular attack known,” the group stated. “We encourage the world’s press to show their support for free speech by republishing the very cartoons that caused this attack.” The group added that it looked forward to the next issue of the newspaper, stating, “We are in awe at the courage of the French cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo.”

Beyond cartoonists, more than 30 organizations in the journalism world expressed their support of Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, including the Online News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the National Association of Black Journalists.

"Je suis Charlie" (“I am Charlie”) has become a common refrain in support of Charlie Hebdo after Wednesday’s shooting. (François Lacroix/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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