Publishers unite to condemn Charlie Hebdo attack

Publishers unite to condemn Charlie Hebdo attack

Arab publishers have joined those from France and from across the international publishing community in voicing condemnation of yesterday's terror attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which saw 12 people lose their lives. Author Salman Rushdie (pictured) also condemned the attack, as did English PEN, and its International, France, Lebanon, Turkey and US sister organisations.

Assem Shalaby, president of the Arab Publishers Association, condemned "this vicious attack that contravenes the principles of Islam and the message of its prophet." Ibrahim El Moallem, chairman of the largest Arab book publisher, Egypt's Dar El Shorouk, said: "This is a horrible crime committed against humanity, freedom of expression, Islam and Muslims. It is an attack against civilisation."

The French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l’Edition, SNE) said freedom of expression, creation and publishing "are the absolute principles that booksellers, like all those who are attached to democracy and fundamental rights, are more than ever determined to defend." SNE paid homage to the cartoonists who died in the attack, Cabu, Charb, Tignous and Wolinski, and author and journalist Bernard Maris, as “free spirits who tirelessly denounced all fanaticism and obscurantism." The association added that “barbary against authors, writing, the mind, will not have the last word.” 

Pierre Dutilleul, president of the Federation of European Publishers, said: "Like all my colleagues, I am obviously shocked by these hideous and barbaric crimes committed against the journalists from Charlie Hebdo. On behalf of all European publishers, I will continue to denounce and fight any attack on freedom of expression, which is the basis of all our democracies."

From the International Publishers Association, president Richard Charkin said: "The attack on Charlie Hebdo is an attack on publishers' core values: freedom of expression, freedom to publish and the right to criticise and polemist. IPA calls on all publishers, authors, journalists and cartoonists to stand together and defend these values. We are all Charlie Hebdo." 

On the English PEN website, author Salman Rushdie commented: “Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.” 

Maureen Freely, president of English PEN, said: "Today we are all horrified, devastated and appalled. But tomorrow we must look for new ways to stand together with writers and artists of all backgrounds and faiths and take courage from our shared commitment to free speech." Jointly with its international sister organisations, English PEN said it was "incumbent on all governments and religious leaders to strengthen their commitment to press freedom and to safeguard freedom of expression as a fundamental human right."

French novelist Michel Houellebecq, and his publisher Flammarion, were indirectly drawn into yesterday's horror, which took place on publication day for Houellebecq's controversial latest novel Soumission (Submission), set in a future France with a new Muslim party in power. Houellebecq featured on the cover of the most recent issue of Charlie Hebdo, albeit in a satirical context, with the magazine poking fun at his predictions.  

According to French trade publication Livres Hebdo, an evacuation of Flammarion's Paris office took place yesterday as a security precaution. 

Xavier Moni, co-founder of Comme un Roman, an independent bookshop in an adjacent neighbourhood to Charlie Hebdo in central Paris, told The Bookseller that like 9/11, he would never forget what had happened yesterday. “Attacking the press in central Paris is terrifying and symbolically very strong. I never thought I would live to see something like this,” he said. Comme un Roman sold 50 copies of Houellebecq’s book yesterday morning. Moni said that he could not recommend the novel, however. “I started reading it last night, and am not convinced either by the content or literary quality,” he said. “A colleague has read it all and thinks the same. Houellebecq has written better books.”