French magazine Charlie Hebdo putting Mohammed on new cover

Posted at 5:42 AM, Jan 13, 2015

PARIS – In a show of defiance, the surviving staff of Charlie Hebdo has placed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover of its first issue since the terrorist attack at its offices last week.

Chosen by Charlie Hebdo’s editors on Monday night, the cover was quickly revealed by Liberation, the French newspaper that is sharing its office space with staffers from the satirical magazine.

A wide swath of French media outlets have already republished the cover in a show of solidarity.

The chosen cartoon shows Mohammed holding up a sign that says “Je Suis Charlie,” the now-famous slogan that became a rallying cry after 12 people were killed at the magazine’s offices on January 7.

The cover illustration also includes the words “All is Forgiven” — a message that is open to interpretation.

Liberation’s news story about the cover said it was specifically meant to depict Mohammed — a strict taboo within Islam. Many Muslims find depictions of the prophet to be deeply offensive, and there has been speculation that Wednesday’s attackers were motivated in part by past Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

The new issue will be distributed to newsstands starting at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning, and we go on sale the same day.

The first of three million copies — up from an earlier estimate of one million — have already arrived under heavy security at a distribution center in a Paris suburb. Charlie Hedbo typically prints about 60,000 copies.

Le Monde, the preeminent French newspaper, reported that the special issue will be printed in 16 languages; will be distributed in 25 countries; and will stay on sale for eight weeks.

New cover is provocative choice

The publication is a triumphant moment for the magazine, and one celebrated by journalists around the world. It is also a highly provocative moment — as the cover indicates.

Many major news organizations, including CNN, generally refrain from showing images that purport to show the prophet. In recent days, executives at CNN have cited concerns about the safety of staff members and sensitivity towards Muslim audiences, but they have also indicated that the network’s decision is subject to change.

The New York Times, the BBC and Al Jazeera were among the other news outlets that chose not to show the new cover on Tuesday.

The website of The Guardian newspaper showed the image, but included a warning to readers that “this article contains the image of the magazine cover, which some may find offensive.”

In France, the new cover was widely republished, by print publications like Le Monde, wire services like Agence France-Presse and television networks like France 24 and BFM TV.

Speaking with The New York Times, Gérard Biard, one of the main editors of Charlie Hebdo, described the process for picking the cover this way: “We asked ourselves: ‘What do we want to say? What should we say? And in what way?’ About the subject, unfortunately, we had no doubt.”

Aside from the cover, little else is known about what the new issue will contain.

An account of Friday’s first editorial meeting — written by Isabelle Hanne and translated into English — suggested that a wide range of ideas were considered.

“What do we put on its pages?” asked one surviving staff member, according to Hanne’s account.

“I’d be in favor of doing a quote-unquote normal edition,” said another staffer. “Let the readers recognize Charlie. That’s not an exceptional edition.”

One proposal called for blank spaces in the magazine — a tribute to the cartoonists and other staffers who were killed. But that idea appeared to be vetoed.

Another idea was to feature unpublished work by the slain cartoonists, so their imaginations would still a part of the pages.

The same day of the meeting, the magazine’s lawyer and main spokesman, Richard Malka, spoke to the news media gathered outside and said: “We are going to forget about the video cameras. We are simply going to work on our next issue. Those who are here will make it work.”

The plan is to put out an eight-page edition, half of the usual 16 pages.

The editors have received help from rival publications and far-flung donations, including from The Guardian newspaper and a French press fund set up by Google.

— By Brian Stelter for CNN. Claire Calzonetti contributed reporting from Paris.