PARIS – As if to prove that the pen is mightier than the sword, cartoonists, media outlets and individuals around the world are expressing solidarity with the victims of the cold-blooded assassination of their colleagues at French satirical magazine.
Many of those who poured into Place de la Republique in eastern Paris near the site of Wednesday’s noontime attack waved papers, pencils and pens. Journalists led the march, but most in the crowd weren’t from the media world, expressing solidarity and support for the freedom of speech.
Similar gatherings, including some silent vigils, took place in London’s Trafalgar Square, in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and in Madrid, Brussels, Nice and elsewhere.
Several hundred people gathered in Manhattan’s Union Square amid chants of “We are not afraid” and holding signs in English and French saying, “We are Charlie.”
The Newseum in Washington displayed “#JeSuisCharlie” on its atrium screen as a show of support for free expression.
“No matter what a journalist or magazine has to say, even if it is not what the majority of people think, they still have the right to say it without feeling in danger, which is the case today,” said Alice Blanc, a London student who is from Paris.
The London crowd was estimated in the hundreds.
Online, the declaration “Je Suis Charlie” or “I Am Charlie” replaced profile pictures on Facebook. Twitter users showed themselves with the slogan on signs with words of support for the 12 victims who were killed at Charlie Hebdo, a weekly newspaper that had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.
The “Je Suis Charlie” slogan grew into a trending hashtag on Twitter and spread to Instagram, along with an image of a machine gun captioned “Ceci n’est pas une religion” (“This is not a religion”).
One user on Instagram sent out a simple black-and-white drawing of the Eiffel Tower with the message, “Pray for Paris.” Another wrote: “Islam is a beautiful religion. This is not what we see on TV. Terrorists are not real Muslims. #IamCharlie.”
Editorialists said Wednesday’s attack, which left 12 dead, including some of France’s best-known cartoonists, targeted the heart of press freedom and democracy.
Satirists stood up for the right to lampoon whatever they choose.
Cartoonists responded to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo with powerful drawings worth thousands of words.
Defiant, angry, poignant, irreverent and sobering, their drawings united them in grief, tried to make sense of the tragedy and sent a shared message: We must not, will not and should not be silenced.
Among the cartoons that went viral online was one by Australia’s David Pope showing a gunman with a smoking rifle standing over a body, bearing the caption, “He drew first.”
“Ultimately, people who carry out these attacks can’t defeat ideas through these means and they won’t succeed,” Pope wrote, adding that he had once met a cartoonist involved in the shooting and that the attack “hit a nerve.”
“Our task is to keep doing what we do . . . focus our satire on those in power and those who seek to wield power in ugly ways like these gunmen and be part of a movement that promotes social solidarity, a free and open and tolerant society,” he wrote.
In India, cartoonist Manjul drew a plane exploding in a fireball into the Eiffel Tower, its pointy top redrawn as the nib of an ink pen.
One of the most powerful drawings had no drawing. Christian Adams’ cartoon for The Daily Telegraph in London showed a completely blank space with the heading, “Extremist approved cartoon.”
Another Telegraph cartoon showed one gunman saying to another, “Be careful, they might have pens.”
South African cartoonist Zapiro said he hoped the attack “doesn’t have a further chilling effect on satirists, commentators and journalists — any free thinkers in society. But I’m afraid that scenario is probably inevitable.”
Like Charlie Hebdo, Zapiro, whose real name is Jonathan Shapiro, has drawn condemnation for daring to draw cartoons poking fun at Mohammed.
The Financial Times was one of the few to criticize Charlie Hebdo, and it faced a backlash after publishing an opinion piece by its European editor that called the weekly “stupid” and “foolish.”
In an online article, Tony Barber condemned the attack but accused the satirical weekly of “editorial foolishness” and said that it had “just been stupid” to provoke Muslims with its Mohammed cartoons.
“Some common sense would be useful at publications such as Charlie Hebdo, and Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, which purport to strike a blow for freedom when they provoke Muslims,” he wrote.
Flemming Rose, the Danish editor at Jyllands-Posten who triggered global protests in 2005 by publishing cartoons of Mohammed, said that Charlie Hebdo was defending press freedom. “Charlie Hebdo didn’t shut up . . . and they have now paid the highest price for that,” Rose said.
Among the news outlets choosing to show their solidarity by running Charlie Hebdo cartoons was Spanish monthly Mongolia.
“Today we are all #CharlieHebdo and we back freedom of expression,” Mongolia’s editor, Gonzalo Boye, said.
Many editorial pages were similarly outraged by the attack, insisting that the killings should not undermine press freedom.
France’s media erupted in fury, with the daily Liberation running the headline “We are all Charlie” — a line repeated in many other papers and echoed online with the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie.
Le Parisien went with “They will not kill liberty,” while Les Echos called for people to face up to “barbarism,” publishing the last cartoon written by one of those killed in the attack.
“The hooded bastards declared war on France, on our democracy, on our values,” the paper said in an editorial.
The attack “targeted the heart of democracy — the freedom of the press,” wrote the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, adding in an opinion piece that the gunmen must not be allowed to win.
“We cannot allow men with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades to determine what we should say, write, draw and even think,” it said. That “would spell the end of the free and open society.”
Britain’s press called for a measured response, fearing the rise of Islamophobia and the far right.
Both the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph ran with the front-page headline “The war on freedom.” The Guardian leaped to the defense of Charlie Hebdo, saying there was something “distinctly French about the form of offensiveness” it reveled in.
The Times also defended the right to criticize Islamists but warned that French President Francois Hollande may find himself under pressure from the far right to “fight fire with fire.”
The Sydney Morning Herald’s executive editor of photography and presentation, Matt Martel, said the paper had decided against running a cartoon showing the Prophet Mohammed in response. “We shouldn’t be scared into self-censorship, but neither should we use it as an excuse to incite or vilify.”
The Instagram account, attributed to mysterious British graffiti artist Banksy but denied by his publicist, bore a cartoon of a pencil under the word “yesterday,” the same pencil snapped in two under “today,” and a third with the stub of the pencil, once again sharpened, under the line “tomorrow.”
It bore the simple caption “RIP.”