Charlie Hebdo survivors issue to sell outside France

A “survivors’ issue” of Charlie Hebdo coming out next week will also be sold outside France because of the huge global attention on the satirical weekly after the massacre of its top staff — marking a turnaround for a publication that just a week ago was on the brink of folding.

The remaining employees of the paper are putting out the special edition next Wednesday, with one million copies to be printed instead of the usual 60,000.

In a sign of the international support, the slogan #JeSuisCharlie has now been used more than five million times online, making it the most-shared hashtag for France-related topics ever. A march on Sunday under that banner will be attended by French and world leaders.

The French company MLP distributing Charlie Hebdo has done deals with several other press distribution groups, notably Naville in Switzerland and SGEL in Spain, to sell the edition, industry sources said. Negotiations are going on with companies in other countries, such as Canada.

Many other countries that have never seen Charlie Hebdo — a comic-heavy newspaper that delights in testing taboos and taste with its take on current events — are also calling for copies to come their way.

– Sales to go to victims’ families –

All money from sales of the issue are to go to the families of the 12 people murdered in the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices on Wednesday by two Islamist gunmen.

The massacre wiped out five of the newspaper’s leading cartoonists. The surviving members of the publication are working in premises loaned by the newspaper Liberation to produce the new issue.

Chief editor Gerard Biard, who was in London the day of the attack, said it will include some works by the killed cartoonists.

Contributions offered by other cartoonists around the world were declined, with the remaining staff preferring to create the edition themselves. They are all working for free and — despite their grief — with characteristic dark humour.

“What are we going to put in the pages?” Biard asked at the first post-massacre editorial meeting on Friday.

Patrick Pelloux, one of its columnists, quipped with a nervous laugh: “I don’t know. What’s in the news?”

– France’s Charlie Brown –

The sudden global prominence of Charlie Hebdo, which before typically sold only half of its usual 60,000 printed copies in France, has saved it from imminent bankruptcy.

The newspaper, named after the American comicbook character Charlie Brown (“Hebdo” is French slang for weekly), had only in November made a public appeal for donations to keep going.

Back then, of the one million euros ($1.2 million) it sought, it received only 26,000 euros. Closure seemed inevitable.

But now, French media have rallied around the title to offer whatever help it needs, and the French government is looking at releasing public funds to bail out Charlie Hebdo. Several government agencies have taken out subscriptions. Even banks have become subscribers.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls dropped by on Friday to lend his official support to the staff — who have in the past lampooned him and other politicians.

– Freedom of expression –

Keeping Charlie Hebdo going is now being seen in France as an act of defiance to the Islamists who sought to extinguish it, and a testament to free speech.

Devout Muslims, though, have been incensed in recent years by some cartoons Charlie Hebdo printed mocking their Prophet Mohammed.

In 2006, Charlie Hebdo became a major target for Islamists when it reprinted 12 cartoons of Mohammed published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in a statement for freedom of expression. The cartoons, including one which showed the Islamic prophet wearing a bomb in a turban, had sparked violent protests in several Muslim countries.

In 2011, the newspaper’s offices, empty at the time, were firebombed by suspected Islamists. Any depiction of Mohammed is considered forbidden under Islam.

Charlie Hebdo’s staff — including several of those killed — had long refused to bow to demands to avoid such sensitive subjects. Instead they redoubled their provocative efforts.

“The newspaper only defended freedom of expression,” its lawyer, Richard Malka, said this week, adding that it “paid a heavy price for that”.

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