National

Abe pays respects to victims at French Embassy

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Expressing solidarity with the people of France, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday signed a book of condolences at the French Embassy’s residency building in Tokyo as police near Paris hunted the gunmen behind a massacre at Charlie Hebdo magazine.

Also Friday afternoon, a group of journalists — both Japanese and foreign — paid respects at the Embassy’s residency.

The journalists handed Ambassador Thierry Dana a letter signed by more than 80 individuals. The gesture was initiated by Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia editor of The Times of London.

Tokyo-based reporters used “word of mouth, email and social media” to gather the signatures.

“This attack affected me, and clearly other people, too, more than much of the bad news that we are exposed to every day,” he said.

Charlie Hebdo, a weekly publication, was known for its satirical tone and for pulling no punches in its choice of targets.

“It doesn’t matter whether you like or dislike Charlie Hebdo, and whether you approve or disapprove of their style of satire,” Parry said. “It’s about violence, and the inviolable right to freedom of expression. . . . We should all be able to agree that journalists have a right, indeed a duty, to challenge institutions, including religion — and sometimes to poke fun at them.”

The French Embassy is operating a virtual book of condolences on its Facebook page, where well-wishers are invited to pay tribute.

A midday Thursday, members of Tokyo’s French community held an impromptu vigil at the residency. Speaking to about 200 people, Ambassador Dana cited the preamble to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

He went on to say: “The editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo, who had been threatened in the past, nevertheless continued courageously in their battle for the freedom of expression.

“It is to this courage that we pay homage today. When the freedom of liberty is attacked in Paris, just as whenever it is attacked anywhere in the world, we are all concerned,” Dana said, according to an Embassy spokesman.

The ambassador then led a minute’s silence to honor the victims.

“It was very moving,” said Regis Arnaud, a Tokyo correspondent for French newspaper Le Figaro, who attended the vigil. “Even Lycee Francais observed a minute of silence,” he said, referring to a French school in Tokyo.

“Even my daughter, who is 6 years old, also (prayed) during a minute of silence.”

Meanwhile, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department ordered Tokyo police stations to be on full alert against terrorist attacks on the French Embassy and other French facilities in the capital.

The police said there are between 10 and 20 locations in Tokyo that might be at risk, including the Embassy in Minato Ward and the Tokyo bureau of news agency Agence France-Presse in Chuo Ward.

Representatives of French institutions in Japan, including the Maison Franco-Japonaise cultural center and the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Tokyo, said Friday that they and their staff were taking no extra measures as a result of the attack.

“Even before the incident we have always taken sufficient security measures such as baggage checks” before visitors enter the building, said Reiko Kobayashi of the Embassy’s press office. “Of course we will discuss whether (more) measures will be necessary.”

Information from Jiji added

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