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France

The world two years after Charlie Hebdo

media A journalist reads on January 3, 2017 in Paris a special issue of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo to be released in newstands on January 4, almost two years after the January 7, 2015 attack on the offices of the weekly which left 11 dead. Eric Feferberg / AFP

On the eve of the second anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attack, the editor, is Laurent Sourisseau;, better known as Riss believes the world has become less tolerant of the French satirical newspaper's black humour.

Even still, he staunchly defends the right to offend, two years after jihadist gunmen killed many of its staff.

However, one of Charlie Hebdo's most outspoken journalists said today, Friday, she is quitting the French satirical magazine because it has gone soft on Islamist extremism.

El Rhazoui quits

Zineb El Rhazoui accused the weekly of bowing to Islamist extremists and no longer daring to draw the Prophet Mohammed.

Her parting shot comes on the eve of the second anniversary of the jihadist massacre that almost wiped out the controversial magazine's staff.

"Charlie Hebdo died on January 7", the day the gunmen attacked the magazine killing 12 people, El Rhazoui said in a damning interview with French news agency AFP.

She said she felt Charlie Hebdo now follows the editorial line the extremists had demanded "before the attack -- that Mohammed is no longer depicted".

El Rhazoui, 35, who is followed everywhere by police bodyguards and is known as the most protected woman in France, also questioned the magazine's "capacity to carry the torch of irreverence and absolute liberty".

"Freedom at any cost is what I loved about Charlie Hebdo, where I worked through great adversity," she added.

On January 7, 2015, in an attack that tore the heart out of the paper, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi forced their way into the low-key Paris office building where it was based and killed 11 people, including star cartoonists Cabu, Charb, Wolinski and Tignous.

Charlie Hebdo marked the grim anniversary in typical style with a front-cover cartoon showing a laughing man staring down the barrel of a jihadist's AK47 rifle with the caption: "2017, at last, the light at the end of the tunnel."

The slogan "Je Suis Charlie" was quickly picked up as an estimated one million people marched in a mass outpouring of solidarity in Paris, and it soon became a rallying cry for freedom of expression around the world.

The newspaper had long been a target for Islamic extremists because it was one of a handful of European publications that printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Intolerant world

Riss, the man who took over from Stephane "Charb" Charbonnier as editor following the attack, now wonders how much support he would get if he repeated that controversial move now.

"We get the impression that people have become even more intolerant of Charlie," he told AFP.

"If we did a front cover showing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed now, who would defend us?"

Riss, whose real name is Laurent Sourisseau, said the number of threats received by the staff was increasing.

"Before they told us to be careful of Islamists. Now we must look out for Islamists, Russians and Turks," he said.

That was partly a reference to a protest from Russian President Vladimir Putin over a cartoon Charlie Hebdo published in December after dozens of members of a Red Army choir were killed in a plane crash.

It showed a choir member in uniform singing the wailing sound "AAAAA" as the plane plunges, under the title: "The Red Army choir's repertoire is expanding."

The anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo murders was marked on Thursday -- two days early -- in low-key ceremonies in Paris led by the city's mayor Anne Hidalgo.

 

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