The French newspaper Libération welcomed Charlie Hebdo’s surviving staff, offering them work space at their Paris offices. Forty-eight hours after the brutal attacks that claimed the lives of twelve people – eight of whom were staff members of the weekly paper – the team has defiantly taken up their pens once again to ensure the timely publication of next Wednesday’s edition. Libération, the only media able to sit in at this editorial conference, has granted its colleagues special permission to distribute an account of this singular moment. We are translating this article here:
Charlie Hebdo’s editorial conference lasted over three hours. In addition to the layout, the content and deadlines of the next issue, this Friday morning’s agenda also included discussions about the dead, the injured, tributes, funerals… The famed salle du hublot (the porthole room) is where Libé usually holds its daily meetings. Today, however, it was occupied by the surviving staff of the satirical newspaper. With light streaming in on one side from the large round window, the room is both overheated and exposed to the four winds to filter out the cigarette smoke.
Computers lent by Le Monde are scattered across the large round table. Surviving staff including Willem, Luz, Coco, Babouse, Sigolène Vinson, Antonio Fischetti, Zineb El Rhazoui and Laurent Léger are seated all around. In all, over 25 people with long faces, puffed eyes, core staff, close colleagues and occasional contributors have come together to prepare the next edition of Charlie Hebdo. It will be published next Wednesday with a planned print run of a million copies – twenty times their usual circulation.
“I managed to see everyone at the hospital,” were the opening words by Gérard Biard, Charlie’s editor-in-chief. “Riss was shot on the right shoulder but the nerve was unharmed. Obviously he is in a great deal of pain. The first thing he said was that he wasn’t sure that we would be able to continue publishing the newspaper.” Fabrice Nicolino, who was hit several times during the attack, “is doing better” although “he is hurting quite a bit.” Patrick Pelloux, a paramedic and columnist for Charlie Hebdo, then explained the jaw injury of another victim, Philippe Lançon, who is also a journalist at Libé. Simon Fieschi, their webmaster, was “placed in an induced coma.” A young woman bursts into tears. “You should not blame yourself!” Gérard Biard says trying to console her. Everyone in the room silently nods. The young woman crying is journalist Sigolène Vinson, who was with the editorial staff during Wednesday’s attack but was spared by the assailants.
“WE MUST CALL TO MIND THE SIMPLICITY OF THESE INDIVIDUALS”
Biard went on to speak of the dead. How should the funerals be organized? And the national tribute? With what type of music? We don’t really need to fly flags? “There is no need for a display of symbols that they themselves would’ve despised,” someone from the table points out. “Those killed were people who drew funny little figures, not flags. We must call to mind the simplicity of these individuals and of their work. Our friends are gone, but we are not going to put them on display on a public stage.” Everyone is in agreement.
A female journalist speaks about a fund that was spontaneously created on the internet by strangers, and how it has already raised 98,000 euros ($115,000) in under 24 hours. Richard Malka, Charlie Hebdo’s lawyer, adds that “Money is pouring in from everywhere, as well as offers of assistance, office space, personnel to handle requests…”
“We have received an outpouring of support from the media,” chimes in Christophe Thévenet, another of Charlie’s lawyers. “There are already donations, like the 250,000 euros ($300,000) from the Association Presse et Pluralism (created by professional media organizations to promote freedom of the press), and one million euros ($1.2 million) pledged by Fleur Pellerin. Charlie is going to be financed like never before!” Thévenet should know; after all, he is the one who established the statutes of corporation and convenes the newspaper’s general assemblies. In recent months the newspaper had made a request for donations in order to replenish its capital, which was running very low.
READY FOR THE CHALLENGE
“Ok, so are we doing this newspaper?” asks Gérard Biard, who is obviously ready for the challenge. “What are we going to write about?” “I don’t know, what’s in the news?” blurts out Patrick Pelloux. The room bursts into nervous laughter. “I’m for making a, quote unquote, normal edition; one which Charlie’s readers can easily recognize. It wouldn’t even have to be a special edition.”
“”We’re doing just fine!” blurts someone from the table. Some suggest leaving blank spaces where Wednesday’s deceased journalists would have written or drawn. But this idea is ultimately opposed by the team. “I don’t want there to be a material void,” argues Gérard Biard. “They all have to be present, on every page. Including Mustapha.” Mustapha Ourad, the copy editor, was one in a long list of casualties of Wednesday’s attack. “So just publish all my mistakes!” laughs Patrick Pelloux and the others.
“Well, what do you know? Fidel Castro is dead!” calls out Luz, giving the proverbial middle fingers as he reads about it on his mobile phone (news that was just as quickly refuted). Reporter Laurent Léger tries to swing the conversation back to the newspaper. “I don’t think we should print obituaries, this is not going to be a tribute edition.” The editorial team discusses the newspaper’s content. Gérard Biard continues, “I hope they stop treating us like extreme secularists, and that they stop saying ‘yes, but’ when it comes to freedom of speech.” Laurent Leger says, “I think we can also say that we were quite alone in recent years.” Luz adds, “The upcoming edition should also talk about the aftermath.” Corinne Rey proposes, “Let’s get the message out that we are alive!” Richard Malka states, “And we should not leave out criticism of religions.”
NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN DRAWINGS TO BE PUBLISHED
Charlie Hebdo is an unusual newspaper. It doesn’t really have sections, but rather “spaces” assigned to a certain author or cartoonist. As for the spaces that were assigned to the deceased, the staff decides to dig up previously unpublished works. Next week’s edition will thus present never-before-seen drawings by Charb, Cabu, Wolinski and Honoré. Throughout the discussions, sobs are heard here and there, like brush fires that are ignited but soon extinguished in the arms of a neighbor. Hands are clasped and many eyes are teary.
Richard Malla clears his voice and announces, “Manuel Valls has just arrived in the building.” The team lets out a sigh, spreads out and chatter fills the room. Mr. Valls is accompanied by the Minister of Culture and Communication, Fleur Pellerin, who is wearing a “Je suis Charlie” sticker on her chest, and is followed by a swarm of external journalists, assistants, and communications staff. The prime minister shakes hands with everyone present, making some comments about the intervention taking place in Dammartin-en-Goële – “The two assassins have been cornered” – before telling them to “be courageous.”
Biard ventures, “Is that it, no more journalists? No more ministers? What should we do for page 16?” His question is stifled by the sounds of opening Coke cans, people snacking on pains au chocolat, muffled cries, wailing police sirens outside. In his little corner of the room Patrick Pelloux chuckles, “So it’s turned in to a real editorial conference, total chaos, we’re back in business!”
The original article in French by Isabelle Hanne