Charlie Hebdo founder says murdered editor ‘overdid’ provocative cartoons

AFP Photo/Patrick Kovarik
A founder of Charlie Hebdo has condemned the murdered editor Stephane Charbonnier of “dragging the team” to their deaths by overdoing the satirical magazine’s provocative cartoons.

Henri Roussel, 80, who participated in 1970 in the creation of the first issue of Charlie Hebdo (then called ‘Hara-Kiri-Hebdo’), addressed Charbonnier posthumously with the words, “I really hold it against you,” in a column in the left-wing magazine Nouvel Obs.

Roussel, who writes under the pen name Delfeil de Ton, said that Charbonnier was an “amazing lad,” but also an obstinate “blockhead.”

“What made him feel the need to drag the team into overdoing it?” he asked, referring to the 2011 Mohammed cartoons.

The cover of the magazine in 2011 showed a drawing of the Prophet Mohammed, along with the words, “100 lashes of the whip if you don’t die laughing!” under a banner saying, “Charia Hebdo.”

French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo's publisher, Stephane Charbonnier. (AFP Photo/Francois Guillot)

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Shortly afterward, the magazine’s office was firebombed by unidentified arsonists.

“I believe that we are fools who took an unnecessary risk,” Roussel wrote. “That’s it. We think we are invulnerable. For years, decades even, it was a provocation and then one day the provocation turns against us.”

“Charb did it again a year later, in September 2012,” Roussel added, using Charbonnier’s nickname.

“I have refused to speak to the TV and radio, to everyone. I kept my message for Obs, and I am not prepared to open this subject again,” Le Monde quoted Roussel as saying.

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Roussel’s column in Nouvel Obs triggered outrage from Richard Malka, Charlie Hebdo’s lawyer for the past two decades. Malka wrote to Mathieu Pigasse, one of the owners of Nouvel Obs and Le Monde.

“Charb has not yet even been buried and Obs finds nothing better to do that to publish a polemical and venomous piece on him,” Malka wrote. “The other day, the editor of Nouvel Obs, Matthieu Croissandeau, couldn’t shed enough tears to say he would continue the fight. I didn’t know he meant it this way. I refuse to allow myself to be invaded by bad thoughts, but my disappointment is immense.”

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In response, Matthieu Croissandeau, Nouvel Obs’ editor, said that the publication “received this text” and following a debate, he decided to publish it.

Pens and pencils are placed on the ground near a sign with the portraits of late Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier (aka Charb), late French cartoonists Georges Wolinski, Bernard Verlhac (aka Tignous) and Jean Cabut (aka Cabu) on the Place de la Republique (Republic Square) in Paris on January 8, 2015. (AFP Photo/Martin Bureau)

“It would have seemed to me worrisome to have censored his voice, even if it is discordant. Particularly as this is the voice of one of the pioneers of the gang," Croissandeau said.

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Le Monde readers spoke out about Roussel’s column, with one saying that Malka was “pathetic” as he was defending an act that insulted millions of Muslims, while forbidding a founder of Charlie Hebdo to voice his opinion.

Another, however, said of Roussel’s words: “It’s ugly to get old.”

Roussel has also criticized previous editors of Charlie Hebdo, accusing them of Zionism and Islamophobia.

Philippe Val, a previous Charlie Hebdo editor, fired cartoonist Maurice Sine over a drawing that depicted the marriage of Nicolas Sarkozy’s son, Jean, to a Jewish retailing heiress. Val said the drawing was anti-Semitic.

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Roussel’s column followed the publication of 3 million copies of the so-called “survivors’ issue” of Charlie Hebdo, the first edition since the January 7 attack. The issue sold out within an hour, and distributors announced that an additional 2 million copies would be printed.