The attack on Charlie Hebdo will remain forever as a “Black Wednesday” in the history of the press. Shouting “Allahu Akbar,” the Kouachi brothers killed eight members of Charlie Hebdo’s staff – cartoonists Cabu, Charb, Tignous, Honoré and Wolinski, columnists Bernard Maris and Elsa Cayat and copy editor Mustapha Ourrad. A total of seven other people died in this and the subsequent attacks.
Three of the 14 defendants will not be in court on 2 September because they are fugitives or possibly dead, while the three killers were themselves killed in shootouts with the police. Investigations are continuing into suspected masterminds and this trial will not examine the possibility of their involvement. Despite these absences, the trial, which is due to continue until 10 November will allow justice to be rendered to the cartoonists and writers who were the victims of this tragedy.
“The Charlie Hebdo massacre trial will be the trial of the most extreme form of censorship, to use the writer George Bernard Shaw’s expression,” said Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “While restrictions on freedom of expression are admissible in order to protect persons, the freedom to criticize systems of thought is absolute. Religious intolerance, an ideology too often fuelled by governments, is nowadays responsible for terrible violence against journalists.”
Worldwide, 90% of crimes of violence against journalist go unpunished, so the trial that begins this week in Paris is an important step in combatting this impunity. “This trial is essential for all of the world’s Charlies,” Deloire added.
At a press conferences held on 6 January 2020 with the UN special rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression and opinion and with Charlie Hebdo lawyer Richard Malka, RSF appealed to governments and international organizations to protect journalists against religious intolerance.
France is ranked 34th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.