A special issue of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo went on sale in France on Wednesday, amid a week of official commemorations and other events paying tribute to the 17 people who were killed one year ago in attacks last January at the newspaper’s office and other locations in the Paris area.
The commemorations have been accompanied by a flurry of book releases and new documentaries on the subject, as well as a resurgence of questions about whether French intelligence and police services failed to adequately assess security threats against the newspaper, which had been under police protection.
The newspaper has printed around 1 million copies of the issue, up from a typical print run of about 100,000, and it includes drawings by illustrators who were killed in the attacks as well as guest contributions.
“Charlie is insolence elevated as a virtue, and bad taste as a mainstay of elegance,” the French culture minister, Fleur Pellerin, wrote in her contribution to the issue. “For all of us, continue to create, to draw freedom.”
Laurent Sourisseau, the newspaper’s editorial director, wrote, “It isn’t two little idiots in balaclavas who are going to screw up our life’s work.”
“They aren’t going to see Charlie die; it is Charlie that is going to see them die,” he added.
The commemorations are being held less than two months after the coordinated attacks on Nov. 13 that left 130 dead in the Paris area, most of them in neighborhoods not far from Charlie Hebdo’s former offices, casting a somber mood on the country, which is still under a state of emergency.
On Wednesday morning, Parisians did not appear to be flocking to newsstands to buy the special issue, as they had for the first issue to be published after the attacks, when millions of copies of the newspaper quickly sold out.
Mimoun Nekrouz, 42, a newspaper seller near the St.-Paul neighborhood of Paris, said he had 200 copies but had sold only 20 so far. “It’s completely different from last year, when I had a line in front of the kiosk and everything was gone in an hour,” he said.
Those who were buying copies on Wednesday said they wanted to support the newspaper. Ineke Louiche, 64, a tourism guide who lives in France but is originally from the Netherlands, said she had bought a copy for her brother.
“In any case, it was important for me to buy this special issue,” Louiche said. “I already read it before the attacks, and you can feel that something has changed, the soul of the paper is gone a little, but this front page is a form of dark humor. I like it.”
The cover shows a bearded figure, representing God, with an assault rifle slung across his back and a bloodstained robe, and the headline: “One Year Later: The Assassin Is Still on the Run.”
The Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, criticized the cover in a commentary published Tuesday.
“Behind the deceptive flag of uncompromising secularism, the weekly is forgetting once more what religious leaders of every faith unceasingly repeat, to reject violence in the name of religion — using God to justify hatred is a genuine blasphemy, as Pope Francis has said several times,” the newspaper wrote.
On the morning of Jan. 7 last year, two brothers, Said and Chérif Kouachi, stormed Charlie Hebdo’s offices in the 11th Arrondissement of Paris with assault rifles, leaving 12 dead. They later said they had carried out the attack on behalf of al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen.
The brothers fled the scene and died in a standoff with the police north of Paris on Jan. 9. That same day, another gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, who is believed to have coordinated with the Kouachis but said he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State, took hostages at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris, killing four of them before he was shot and killed by police. A day earlier, Coulibaly had killed a police officer in the southern suburb of Montrouge.
President François Hollande attended the unveiling of three commemorative plaques at several locations on Tuesday: the former Charlie Hebdo offices, which have now moved to a more secure location; a street near the former offices where a police officer was killed by the Kouachi brothers as they fled; and the kosher supermarket, where Hollande briefly met with some of the survivors.
French television is broadcasting dozens of special shows and documentaries this week, including one on the public channel France 3 in which Hollande and other top officials give a behind-the-scenes look at their actions in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.
Some members of victims’ families are speaking up on the anniversary to ask why more was not done to protect the offices of Charlie Hebdo, which had taken pride in offending indiscriminately and had become the target of radical Islamists.
Ingrid Brinsolaro, the widow of Franck Brinsolaro, who had been assigned to protect the Charlie Hebdo editor Stéphane Charbonnier, said Tuesday that she wanted French judicial authorities to investigate security measures at the newspaper before the attack.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking on the French radio station RTL on Tuesday, defended the authorities’ handling of security but said he would ensure that Brinsolaro’s questions did not go unanswered.
On Wednesday, the French satirical and investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné reported that three months before the attack, the employee of a company not far from Charlie Hebdo’s offices had seen a car pull up on the street, that the driver had asked if it was where Charlie Hebdo’s offices were, and that he had warned, “We are watching them.”
“You will convey the message!” the driver, which the employee said he later recognized as being Chérif Kouachi, said before driving away.
The Canard Enchaîné’s account, based on a report by one of the police officers assigned to protect Charbonnier, said that the police officer had informed his superiors about the episode, but that it was unclear whether they had followed up on it.
Maryse Wolinski, the widow of a Charlie Hebdo illustrator, Georges Wolinski, also raised questions about security in a book published this week.
“How is it that an attack, that such a massacre could have occurred in the offices of a satirical newspaper that was deemed a sensitive site for several years?” she asked on Europe 1 radio on Monday.