You probably still remember the “Je suis Charlie” slogan that was born in the aftermath of the gun attack that was carried out in the offices of the French weekly magazine a year ago. The brazenness and brutality with which the two gunmen marched up into the publication’s headquarters that January 7 and opened fire on unarmed journalists sent shockwaves across the world. In solidarity with the fallen cartoonists, writers and editors, the “Je suis Charlie” slogan was echoed and retweeted across the globe. The extremists who carried out the attack claimed that they were “avenging the Prophet” after what they deemed deeply offensive illustrations of Muhammad were published on Charlie Hebdo.
But the weekly has a long history of stretching the limits of freedom of expression when addressing hot topics. And Charlie Hebdo has again sparked off heated debate with the way it chose to satirize the recent bombings in Brussels on its latest cover. Following the gruesome bombings that occurred at the Brussels Airport and the Maalbeek Metro Station in the Belgian capital, Charlie Hebdo published the below caricature on its front page. It is a depiction of Belgian pop star Stromae singing his hit ‘Papaoutai’ with his homeland’s flag in the background. Around him are flying body parts, presumably from a bomb explosion, responding to the question in the song (Where are you dad?) by shouting “here”, “also here”.
Already there’s been uproar on social media in France and other parts of the world surrounding the image. Some find it absurd that the cartoonist would depict such a dark, deeply upsetting event that cost 32 lives in such a flippant, disrespectful way. Others wonder why Riss, the cartoonist in question, chose to make Stromae the center of the story, the Belgian connection notwithstanding. They fear that the cartoon may put a dent in his image. Interviewed by French daily Le Figaro, Didier Pasamonik, a cartoon strip historian said the cartoon was typical of Riss. But he wondered what effect the image would have on Stromae in light of the fact that he lost his father during Rwanda genocide of 1994. What do you think of the image? Has Charlie Hebdo abused its freedom of expression?
Miami Based, Internationally Known