Charlie Hebdo

“Being shocked is a part of democratic debate. Being shot is not.” -Gerárd Biard, Editor-in-Chief of Charlie Hebdo (Read the full remarks from the 2015 PEN Gala award presentation here.)

At the 2015 PEN Literary Gala, Paris-based satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo will be honored with the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award.

“It is the role of the satirists in any free society to challenge the powerful and the sacred, pushing boundaries in ways that make expression freer and more robust for us all. In paying the ultimate price for the exercise of their freedom, and then soldiering on amid devastating loss, Charlie Hebdo deserves to be recognized for its dauntlessness in the face of one of the most noxious assaults on expression in recent memory.”

The January 7 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo took the lives of eight staff cartoonists and columnists, a visiting writer, a building maintenance worker, and two policemen. The day after the attack, the surviving staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine vowed to continue publication, releasing their next edition on time with a print run expanded from 40,000 to over eight million under the mantra “All is Forgiven,” donating all proceeds to the families of the victims. The Charlie Hebdo attacks dealt a blow to the bedrock principle that no act of expression, no matter how provocative or offensive, can justify violence. Charlie Hebdo film critic and essayist Jean-Baptiste Thoret, who arrived to work late on January 7 thus barely escaping the attack, will accept the PEN/James and Toni C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award on behalf of his colleagues, and will be accompanied by The New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, who wrote a stirring tribute to his Parisian compatriots published in his magazine’s January 15 issue.

Facts About Free Expression in France:

• In France, “defense of terrorism” carries a sentence of up to up to seven years and a EUR 100,000 fine. A November 2014 law moved the offense to the criminal code, allowing for expedited proceedings in these cases. In the week after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, there were at least 69 arrests on this charge.

• The French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools bans wearing conspicuous religious symbols—including the hijab, Sikh turban, crucifix, and yarmulke—in French public schools. A 2010 law further bans any clothing that conceals the face, including the burqa, niqab, and balaclava, in public places.

• French law forbids “insult,” “defamation,” or “provocation to discrimination, hatred, or violence” toward individuals or groups because of their origin, ethnic group, nation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or handicap, but protects blasphemy and challenges to religious ideas, symbols, practices, and leaders.


Tweet your support for Charlie Hebdo and freedom of expression in France:

No act of expression, no matter how provocative or offensive, can justify violence. #JeSuisCharlie #PENgala

Related Content

Vive Charlie Hebdo! (cartoons) 
PEN Condemns Attacks on Charlie Hebdo (take action)
PEN Condemns Attack on Denmark Free Speech Event
After Charlie: What’s Next for Art, Satire, and Censorship? (video)

2015 PEN Gala

The Ceremony
Khadija Ismayilova, 2015 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award
Tom Stoppard, 2015 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award
Markus Dohle, 2015 PEN Publisher Honoree