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Charlie Hebdo: The Publication That Mocks Everyone

Cartoonist and editor Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb, was killed in the attack.
Cartoonist and editor Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb, was killed in the attack.

The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, targeted in a January 7 gun attack in Paris that left 12 people dead, has a long and storied history of poking cruel fun at the great, the good, and the ugly.

French leaders, Muslims, Jews, the pope -- all have been the target over the years of the weekly's crude -- and to some, offensive -- satire.

Here are just a few examples.

Charles De Gaulle

In 1970 the magazine's predecessor, Hara-Kiri, was banned by the French Interior Ministry for mocking the death of former French President Charles De Gaulle. The president died in his home village Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises eight days after a fire in a night club in southeastern France killed 146 people. The magazine released a cover mimicking the press coverage of the disaster with the headline "Tragic Ball at Colombey, one dead." The magazine got around the ban by setting up under a new name, Charlie Hebdo.

Muhammad Cartoons

In 2006, the magazine decided to reprint the 12 Muhammad cartoons initially published in the Danish daily Jyllands-posten that caused worldwide controversy. Charlie Hebdo also made its own Muhammad cartoon on the front page. Under the title Muhammad Overwhelmed By Fundamentalists, it shows the Prophet crying, saying, "it's hard being loved by jerks."

Shari'a Hebdo

In 2011 the magazine's office was fire-bombed and its website hacked. The attacks came after the magazine decided to rename a special edition Charia [Shari'a] Hebdo with the Prophet Muhammad listed as editor in chief. The cover depicted the Prophet saying, "100 lashes of the whip if you don't die laughing."

More Muhammad Cartoons

Its most controversial issue came in September 2012, when the magazine published a series of satirical cartoons of Muhammad, with the most graphic one being a nude image of him with a star in his rear saying "A star is born."

The publication came a few days after attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East during protests against a low-budget, anti-Islamic film, the Innocence of Muslims, that was made in the United States. The publication prompted France to close embassies, consulates, and schools in about 20 Muslim countries.

Catholics, Jews

The magazine has for a long time targeted religions other than Islam, too. It mocked the previous pope, Benedict XVI, after his abdication in 2013, alluding that he was a closet homosexual.

And it has also mocked Jews, like in this cover*, where a Jew, the pope, and a Muslim cry simultaneously, "We need to veil Charlie Hebdo!"

Current-Day Politicians Have Been Fair Game, Too

Current-day politicians, especially French presidents, have also been targeted on numerous occasions. The current president, Francois Hollande, was in 2014 depicted in bed with his former partner, Valerie Trierweiler, right after the news broke about his infidelity. The comment from "Trierweiler" -- "No growth anywhere" -- lampoons both Hollande's virility and the flaccid French economy during his tenure.

*CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified a "Shoah Hebdo" parody as a Charlie Hebdo publication. We regret the error.

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.