After last week’s shooting in Paris left 12 people, including cartoonists Charb, Cabu, Wolinski, Tignous, and Honoré, dead, the remaining staff members of Charlie Hebdo could have decided to close up shop. Instead, they maintained the defiant satire that has characterized the magazine and released an issue today. That issue has sold out an initial print run of 3 million copies, and an additional 2 million copies have been ordered for release tomorrow.
The magazine normally has a circulation of 60,000 copies, but anticipating widespread interest domestically and abroad, the print run was upped considerably. In Paris, lines at news stands snaked around corners, and one witness indicated that the line he saw had 400 people in it. Stands throughout Paris have sold out of the issue, and the same has happened with the British edition. Those who have been turned away have been told that more copies will be available on Thursday.
For some, the issue is a piece of history, but many recognize that buying the issue is also a show of support for free speech. From The Guardian:
Caroline Powell, 47, came in to order a copy, but was too late. “It is to honour the people that were massacred,” she said. “I will come in again on Friday. I think it is about freedom of speech. I think we should be able to buy what we want. Charlton Kings isn’t just a sleepy village.”
Chalrie Hebdo editor-in-chief Gérard Biard gave a press conference yesterday regarding the new issue. The remaining staff have relocated to the offices of Libération, a French daily that was founded by Jean-Paul Satre and Serge July in the 1970s. During the press conference, Biard said:
“We are happy to have done it, happy to have managed to do it,” he said. “It was difficult because it had to be something of us, something of the events which we have been confronted with. This edition – the whole of Charlie Hebdo is in it. This edition is Charlie Hebdo.”
The cover features a depiction of Muhammad holding a sign that reads “I am Charlie” and crying under the words “All is forgiven.” Cartoonist Luz drew the image, and he also spoke during the press conference:
Luz told the world’s assembled media, who were packed into every inch of space in the makeshift conference room, that he had no fear after drawing the picture of Muhammad on the front cover of the magazine. “I have no worries about the cover,” he said. “We have confidence in people’s intelligence and we have confidence in humour. The people who did this attack, they have no sense of humour.”
Luz added: “I’m sorry we’ve drawn him yet again but the Muhammad we’ve drawn is a man who is crying.”
Presently, the edition is difficult to find in the U.S. Due to historically low circulation, the magazine has rarely been ordered in the U.S., finding greatest circulation in French-speaking Quebec. Barnes and Noble has refused to carry it, but several magazine shops around New York City have requested copies. The North American distributor, LMPI, has indicated that only 300 copies of the French edition will be available, and that they have ordered additional copies. An English digital edition will eventually be made available, but a release date has not yet been publicized.
The fact that the issue has had such widespread popularity in France indicates extensive support for free speech (putting aside the few individuals who have immediately taken to eBay to try to turn a profit). That Charlie Hebdo‘s staff overcame their personal grief over the loss of their colleagues — and fear of further reprisals — to publish the issue is a testament to their dedication to exercising the right to free speech. Hopefully this support of creative expression continues and finds a stronger foothold worldwide.