Answering Tourist's Questions About Charlie Hebdo
January 09, 2015
On January 7th 2015, 2 heavily armed men penetrated the premises of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo during their editorial conference, lethally shooting 12 people (including 3 cartoonists and 1 journalist, all of whom were very influential) and seriously wounding another 4. Qualified as a terrorist attack by French President François Hollande, this event was the deadliest terrorist attack in France since WWII. The following day was proclaimed a national day of mourning, a rare event that has happened only 4 times in the last 70 years (3 for the death of former French presidents and one for 9/11). A tragedy brought to the eyes of the world with the now famous logo “Je Suis Charlie” (I Am Charlie) and one that will long remain in the hearts of people in France and abroad.
For tourists, understanding the situation of Charlie Hebdo is not always easy. With many visitors present in Paris during this week’s attacks and many more already planning to be here in the near future, the there are some pressing questions being posed about the event. Here are our answers to some of those questions.
What is Charlie Hebdo?
Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) is a satirical weekly newspaper, with a very caustic humor and non-conformist tone, which is well known for using cartoons and illustrations to convey its messages. Although it has a left-wing reputation (some even calling it anarchist), Charlie Hebdo has always stood out from other newspapers due to its strong anti-religious beliefs and controversial points of view on subjects such as politics, far right extremists, culture, Catholicism, Islam and Judaism. The idea behind Charlie Hebdo’s editorial is that “everything is a laughing matter, always.”
Why Charlie Hebdo?
Charlie Hebdo might not be the record holder for the French newspaper with the most court cases over controversial content (a record currently held by right wing extremist newspaper Minute), but since its debut in 1960 (back then known as Hara Kiri), it has gone through (and won) many trials. In 2011, after publishing the very controversial Danish “Mohammed Cartoons,” the offices of Charlie Hebdo were burned and their website was hacked, but no one was harmed. Since then, Charlie Hebdo and their editorial team have received many death threats and were henceforth placed under close police surveillance. They never ceased to believe in and stand-up for freedom of speech. January 7th was not an attack on people at random; it was a targeted act with the intention of silencing Charlie Hebdo.
"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it,” said Voltaire, one of the leading 18th century French philosophers. In the French Declaration of Human Rights written in 1789 (which inspired many other Declarations all over the world), the freedom of opinion and expression is the 1st of the 4 major human rights. In the majority of cases, newspapers have won their legal battles over controversial topics by using their right to freedom of speech. The January 7th shooting was aimed at weakening the freedom of speech by targeting those that used it to a very large extent.
Situation for Tourists
A variety of consequences follow suit of a terrorist attack. Although these attacks were highly targeted, the security level in public areas has been increased to the maximum level. Here is a list of what you can expect to see in light of the heightened security measures:
What to Expect:
-Don’t be surprised if you see military personal and/or police officers in places such as metro stations, airports, train stations, as well as very touristic areas such as the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower.
-Some touristic areas may be made temporarily off-limits by police
-In touristic attractions, metal detectors might be installed and bags will be thoroughly checked.
-Police might check ID more regularly. Expect longer queues at touristic attractions.
-Expect metro / RER / train / airplane delays.
-Travel light (avoid taking a backpack while visiting Paris unless you really need to).
-Do not leave your luggage unattended, and if you see one, please report it immediately.
-There are many police officers present in Paris right now. If you have security questions or see anything suspiscious, be sure to speak to them. They are there to keep everyone (visitors and locals) safe.
Many symbolic events have already taken place in Paris, France, and around the world in memory of Charlie Hebdo. In Paris, these included gatherings at the Place de la République, a minute of silence held all over France at noon on January 8th (including in the metro and at Notre Dame Cathedral), the turning off of the lights at the Eiffel Tower and more. Within gatherings, the symbol of support is holding up a pen. The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie is the rallying point on social media and has now broken a world-record on Twitter. There are still a number of events taking place in Paris to honor Charlie Hebdo. We have compiled a list of them that you can check by clicking here.