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One year on: How The Interpreter covered the Charlie Hebdo attacks

One year on: How The Interpreter covered the Charlie Hebdo attacks
Published 7 Jan 2016   Follow @JohnMGooding

Today marks the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 12 people. The magazine itself chose to commemorate the occasion with an anniversary edition depicting God as a blood-spattered terrorist with the caption 'One year on: the assassin is still out there'.

The anniversary edition of Charlie Hebdo on news stands in Paris, photo. (Getty/Anadolu Agency)

In the aftermath, Sam Roggeveen spoke to terrorism specialist Andrew Zammit on al Qaeda and ISIS involvement in the attacks:

On the Sunday following the attack, upwards of 1.5 million people (including many world leaders such as Barack Obama) marched across Paris in solidarity with the victims. Daniel Woker, both a frequent Interpreter contributor and a 'frequent Parisian', was there:

The mood was unbelievable. Parisians, famous for their impatience and occasional rudeness in everyday foot and car traffic, were impeccably behaved. That was, after all, the point: a show of quiet and strong defiance in the face of murderous action and a show of best civic behaviour against a direct attack on civil society. A show especially of multi-ethnic and multi-religious tolerance as an answer to an assault on the liberty of expression at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, and to a concurrent anti-Semitic crime at a kosher supermarket.

Inevitably Sunday's warm glow of unity and purpose will pass as we all go back to our daily lives. The real test for what we claim as our way of life — the Western type of open, tolerant and democratic society — will be how the authorities and society in its voting behaviour will react.

Rodger Shanahan argued that the attacks raised the question of how Australia should approach trade and security partners who do not hold freedom of speech in the same regard (an issue that has cropped up again recently as a result of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr's execution in Saudi Arabia).

The deadly and tragic terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo brings into sharp relief a foreign policy conundrum that we may no longer be able to simply sweep under the carpet. The problem surrounds the hypocrisy of advocating freedom of speech as a fundamental right and yet failing to criticise Middle Eastern allies who do not see it that way...The PM said after the events in Paris that 'We have to be prepared to speak up for our beliefs. We have to be prepared to call things as we see them.' Surely a public statement condemning the actions of the Saudi Government would be a good way of giving substance to those fine words.

Merriden Varrall explored how the Chinese media reaction differed sharply with Western coverage:

These pieces add up to an argument that freedom of the press, and free expression overall, are Western values that are unreflectively presumed to be applicable across all cultures. The Chinese press reflects the view that such freedoms should not automatically be assumed to be positive and beneficial. Rather, public expression should have the wellbeing of the public as a whole as its key guiding principle. It should be limited if it causes tension and exacerbates cultural differences – that is, freedom of the press should be seen as a means to a greater end.

Finally, Nicole George argued that Islamic radicalisation by itself is an insufficient explanation of the attackers' motivations:

It may seem strange that a self-declared 'anti-establishment' outfit like Charlie Hebdo would be viewed as synonymous with regularised systems of state authority and somehow become the target of resistance-oriented violence. But for some parts of the French population, the work of Charlie Hebdo is undoubtedly seen as simply one more place where they are diminished and belittled, emulating a pattern that is felt to be well rehearsed by other parts of French state authority.

My contention here is that this attack has its origins in the experience of marginalisation and inequality that is the lot of French immigrants and their descendants.

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