“Charlie Hebdo” recounts 50 years of struggle for freedom of expression in a book

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Paris | In the midst of the trial of the January 2015 attacks, “Charlie Hebdo”, created to circumvent the censorship of Gaullist power, looks back on half a century of struggles for freedom of expression, in a book in bookstores on Thursday.

Entitled “” Charlie Hebdo “, 50 years of freedom of expression” (ed. Les Echappés), this book retraces over 300 pages the eventful history of the satirical weekly and its relentless struggle, from its creation, to defend and bring to life this freedom, through the reproduction of drawings, reports, editorials, which have marked the history of the newspaper, preceded by a text by its director Riss.

“It jumped out at us, when we looked at our archives to evoke these 50 years: during these 50 years, the entire trajectory of Charlie, born of a censorship, was marked by this fight,” said to AFP Gérard Biard, the editor of the satirical newspaper.

Charlie Hebdo was indeed created in response to measures taken by the government in 1970 to try to silence the monthly “Hara Kiri”, which had dared to headline, after the death of General de Gaulle in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises , “Tragic ball in Colombey, a dead”. An allusion to the fire in a dance hall which had killed more than a hundred people that month.

The Interior Ministry had decided to ban the display and sale to minors of “Hara Kiri”. The monthly team had the idea of ​​launching a weekly version to get around this virtual ban: “Charlie Hebdo” was born, a nod to the late general.

A nod to the “general”

The weekly ceased to appear in 1982, but was relaunched ten years later, after the division of the editorial staff of another satirical newspaper, “La Grosse Bertha”.

The book shows the evolution of the subjects covered by the newspaper and the forces which it tackles with an always pungent humor, thanks to the talent of its teams.

“Throughout his life,” Charlie Hebdo “has been confronted with forms of censorship, first of all a classic and institutional censorship” which is exercised via “an incalculable number of trials, in particular on the part of the army ”, summarizes Gérard Biard.

Gradually, as the case law consolidates the newspaper, this institutional censorship gives way to “religious associations”, initially Catholic, which file lawsuits “with the strategy of drying us financially”, without success.

From now on, efforts to silence the newspaper are mainly the responsibility of “individuals or groups of individuals, who proclaim themselves to be of such and such a cause, sometimes in the name of very just causes, but who are guided by a form of puritanism, a search for absolute purity, including in the ideological struggle, ”he notes.


The book obviously returns to the “often complicated relationship with other media” and to events such as the publication of the cartoons of Mohammed, and its enormous repercussions. He first recalls the context, too often forgotten today, which led “Charlie Hebdo” to publish these Danish cartoons in 2006: it was a question of protesting against the dismissal of the editor of the daily “France Soir” , which was the first French newspaper to dare to publish these drawings.

And “Charlie” finds himself at the heart of a lawsuit brought by the Paris Mosque, the UOIF and the World Islamic League, in 2007, an “unnatural” alliance, according to Gérard Biard, who sees it as a form of resurgence institutional censorship. Here again, the trial will lead to an acquittal.

But in 2011 will follow the fire against the headquarters of the newspaper, then the killing of January 2015. So many traumas that do not prevent “Charlie” from continuing to trace his path, using the same tools as when he was created.

“Satire and caricature use language which is a way of highlighting what other media cannot. We have been accused a lot of provocative, but it is a tool to enlighten, our tool of expression, to take a step aside, ”explains Gérard Biard.

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