1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Hollande defends Charlie Hebdo caricature

January 17, 2015

President Francois Hollande has called freedom of expression one of France's key "values," responding to protests in several countries against the front cover of Charlie Hebdo, again depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Charlie Hebdo / Karikatur / Ausschnitt

The French president on Saturday voiced objection to the protests against Charlie Hebdo taking place in several Muslim countries. Speaking in Tulle, on virtually his first planned appointment since a week of reacting to the terror attacks in Paris, Hollande said that freedom of expression was a key part of "the ideal" and the "values" of France.

"We see that there are tensions, tensions abroad where populations do not understand this attachment to the freedom of expression because they have been deprived of it," Hollande said.

"But we have also supported these countries in the fight against terrorism, and so I would like to again express my solidarity with them. At the same time, however, France has its principles and it has its values - and freedom of expression is a notable one of these," the president said.

Saturday demonstrations

Police in Niger on Saturday used tear gas to disperse a group of protesters who had gathered to criticize Charlie Hebdo publishing a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad on the front cover of the edition published in multiple languages the week after the attack on the magazine. A small demonstration also took place outside Yemen's French embassy. In Gaza, officials woke on Saturday to find graffiti sprawled on the wall of the French cultural center overnight, saying "You are going to hell, French journalists." On Friday, police and protesters had clashed in Karachi in Pakistan, where a photographer for French news agency AFP was shot and severely wounded, and again in Niger, where four people were killed.

Niger Proteste gegen Mohammed Karikaturen in Charlie Hebdo 16.1.2015
After hundreds gathered to protest in Niger on Friday, there were reports of further unrest early on SaturdayImage: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Ghani 'firmly condemns' Charlie cover

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also condemned what has been dubbed the survivors' edition of Charlie Hebdo, calling it a great insult to Islam and Muslims in a communique.

"President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani firmly condemns the caricature of the Prophet Muhammad published recently in Charlie Hebdo, and qualifies it as an insult to the sacred religion of Islam and to the Muslim world," the statement said.

Ghani "underlined that freedom of expression should be used in a constructive manner in a bid to promote the peaceful coexistence between religions," the document concluded.

Charlie Hebdo - Verkaufsstart in Deutschland 17.01.2015
While Ghani, the pope and others criticized the French mag, German news consumers queued up for a copyImage: Carsten Koall/Getty Images

All is forgiven?

Charlie Hebdo's front cover featured an image depicting Muhammad, holding a sign saying "Je suis Charlie," in reference to the outpouring of solidarity that sprang up after the attacks, with the caption "All is forgiven" above his head.

The depiction of the prophet is considered offensive by many in the Muslim world, although it is not specifically forbidden in the Koran. The Paris attackers were heard calling that they had "avenged the prophet" during their attacks on Charlie Hebdo, which had frequently satirized organized religion in the past. Pope Francis this week caused something of a stir when he told French journalists that he believed satire should have "limits," trying to explain his position by saying that even his friends would know "to expect a punch" should they insult his mother in his presence.

Rush in Germany

The magazine itself hit German news stands, albeit only in the original French, on Saturday morning. Only a few thousand copies were available.

Charlie Hebdo - Verkaufsstart in Deutschland 17.01.2015
Here's hoping your French is good, chaps - this week's Charlie Hebdo was not translated into GermanImage: Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Several people braved chilly January temperatures to queue at their local kiosk or newsagent, with most outlets selling off their copies with haste.

"We could have ordered 500 editions, they all would have shifted," said a newsagent at Stuttgart's main train station, who only had around a dozen to sell. "You're not just buying the magazine," one of her customers said, calling his purchase "a symbol of solidarity with the victims."

According to its distributing company, Charlie Hebdo - a magazine with a typical circulation of around 60,000 - has sold 1.9 million copies of its survivor's edition. The number printed started at 1 million copies, but has since been boosted to 3 million, and now 5 million editions.

msh/sb (AFP, dpa)

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

A missile explodes over Kyiv, May 16, 2023
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage