Nous sommes Charlie: cracks and coverage

Barely two days after the French unity marches, it is upsetting to read on various news websites that cracks are already surfacing. While victims have either just been buried, or their funerals still have to take place!

First, I came across a picture of Sunday’s Paris march on the UK Daily Telegraph website. It showed the world leaders at the front of this march. But not as I remembered them walking. Where had Angela Merkel gone? Well, at least one paper seems to have found it necessary to photoshop the pictures. All female world leaders have been photoshopped out of their version. Ah yes: this is of course a men’s world … For the article:Telegraph.

Then there was the article on the Independent website. The partner of Charlie Hebdo’s editor may not be at his funeral. Not because she doesn’t want to be there. No! It seems his family do not want her there: see Charlie Hebdo editor’s girlfriend, The Independent website.

Thirdly, The Independent had finally clogged on to what I mentioned in one of my first blog posts about the events (see my Nous sommes Charlie). Five days after me writing about it, The Independent “breaks” the news that the Dutch Rotterdam Mayor, mr Aboutaleb, had reacted strongly against the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

As I remarked in my post: mr Aboutaleb was livid and very outspoken in this television interview. Interested in the Independent article: Muslim Mayor of Rotterdam Aboutaleb, Independent. I certainly hope, him being so outspoken does not earn him a place on extremists’ death lists.

At least the UK Guardian kept things kind of subdued. Like many of the French papers, Le Monde for instance, the Guardian concentrates on the funerals. It is also one of the few English papers which website contains an article about what the gunmen’s actions meant for their unsuspecting family members. (Guardian)

So if the coverage of Sunday’s march already left me with mixed feelings, the apparent photoshopping of pictures and other headlines increased these.

As for tomorrow’s Charlie Hebdo issue: though it will be available in various countries, I doubt I will be able to buy it. But as stated on the Guardian website, there will be web editions available: Charlie Hebdo to produce three million copies in many languages.



Nous sommes Charlie: marches and mixed feelings

As I was unable to join any of the marches taking place in France yesterday, I watched the coverage of the Paris one on CNN. Of course it was very moving, emotional, impressive. But I was also left with mixed feelings.

From my previous two posts about what happened on Wednesday (see “Je suis Charlie“) and its aftermath (see “Nous sommes Charlie“), you can guess what my believes and values are. But are we truly “nous sommes charlie”, and if so: for how long?

When I wrote the previous posts, there were two siege-scenes still in progress (see “Nous sommes Charlie 2“). Shortly afterwards, both ended. Saturday, I read that Wednesday’s total number of victims had unfortunately increased.

Sunday, the morning news was that there had already been attacks on papers in Germany. The offices of a Belgian paper had been evacuated after threats.

A day after the marches in France, I’m sitting behind my laptop and a coffee. A table away from me, two adolescent muslim girls talk about events in Paris. “It leaves me stone cold”, one states, “I’m totally not interested in what happened in Paris.” The other one agrees. Ah well, Friday, a few reporters had already stated that in many Parisian Banlieus, there were no “Je suis Charlie” signs to be seen. Not all of us wish to be Charlie.

Sunday afternoon, I watched the coverage of the Paris march. It seemed world leaders had kind of “hijacked” events and the Parisian march.

Sure, I’m glad the majority of them bothered to be there and march in unity – if only for about a quarter of an hour. Or as a journalist put it: “just long enough so the press could take the necessary pictures”. It was perfectly stage-managed. It must also have been a boost for mr Hollande, who is one of the most unpopular French Presidents to date.

Nevertheless, it was impressive to see leaders like mr Netanyahu and mr Abbas both there. Though this morning, barely 24 hours later, French papers already stated President Hollande had not wanted mr Netanyahu to show up. So when was mr Abbas invited? Regardless, it is to be hoped that their fifteen minutes walk during this march of unity will be a first step on a long road towards solutions for problems in their region.

Marie LePen and co had not been welcome and remained unwelcome. They organised their own march. But it certainly showed that unity and “Nous sommes Charlie” is interpreted very flexibly by some.

For the Turkish Prime Minister was welcome. Despite a number of foreign journalists first having been manhandled and then arrested in his country – less than a week ago. They were later released, but countless police, members of the army, students, liberal people are still held in Turkish prisons. So like other people, I wonder how he managed to join a march which was also about freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, and a great many other values with which he and his government seem to have problems with.

Yes, I know there is at least one satirical magazine which is still allowed to publish in his country. It seemed it was once visited by members of Charlie Hebdo. This week, it published cartoons in favour of the Jihadist terrorists responsible for what happened in Paris. With freedom of press in Turkey being only possible for papers and magazines which tow the government’s line, I doubt publications of such cartoons are an expression of freedom of speech or press freedom. Nor was the Turkish Prime Minister the only representative of a foreign country where Western values and freedoms are truly upheld.

So watching these world leaders walk in front of the millions of ordinary people, left me with mixed feelings. Even though it was only for about fifteen minutes.

It was a relief, when the focus turned upon Charlie Hebdo’s remaining staff, mourning family members, partners, relatives, friends left behind after the horrors of the last few days. And the most moving and most impressive scenes and statements were not those of world leaders, but these and of the millions of ordinary people expressing support, how they felt, and what they stood for: “Nous sommes Charlie”.


Nous sommes Charlie 2

Yesterday, many people united and joined demonstrations and protests against the killing of journalists, cartoonists, editors, publishers, policeman in the recent attack against the magazine Charlie Hebdo. Perhaps you, like me, joined one of these demonstrations.

The most moving pic was not among the photos of the demonstrations. It was of course the photo of her father’s empty desk taken by his mourning yet defiant daughter Elsa Wolinski. She shared it on Instagram.

Yesterday morning, while the manhunt had moved to Picardy, there were already reports of another Paris shooting. A man apparently dressed very much like a special policeman, had shot a street cleaner and killed a police woman. At first, this incident was reported to be unconnected to the Charlie Hebdo slaughter.

At this moment, it is clear it was not a stand-alone incident. The killer has killed two hostages and is holding more in Paris. According to the UK independent, he is demanding the release of his fellow Jihadists who are holding hostages just outside Paris.

While reading all this, I stumbled upon another page of this UK newspaper. It reported mr Raif Badawi, a liberal blogger, had just received the first 50 lashes of his sentence. His sentence, for being a liberal blogger interested in freedom of speech. His punishment consists not only of imprisonment, but of being publicly lashed FIFTY times for TWENTY Fridays!

As Amnesty International and the Independent report: he “was originally sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in July last year, but an appeals court overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial – which then earned him a more severe sentence of 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison.”

And it is not just mr Badawi, who has been punished for being a blogger. His lawyer, mr Waleed Abu al-Khair, a human rights activist, has been jailed for 15 years by the Saudi Courts of Justice as well.

As I have not heard any reaction from the Saudi Arabian Government condemning what has happened and is happening in Paris so far – even though the policeman executed so appallingly in the street was a decent Muslim – I as a blogger and human being, felt obliged to join a petition started by Amnesty International, to try and stop the flogging of mr Badawi and to try and get him and his lawyer out of prison.

You may disagree with me. You may condemn my action. That is your right and remember: you will not be decapitated, slaughtered, flogged, put in prison, tortured, if you state your opinion.

For me, signing the petition was a logical part of me expressing my “Je suis Charlie” feelings today. For I think that all the deaths in and around Paris since Wednesday only will have some meaning, if “Nous sommes Charlie” does not stop with the capture of the attackers and freeing of hostages in France.



Nous sommes Charlie

When I entered one of my favourite Brussels shops yesterday, staff were listening to the radio. While I was browsing, there was a special news broadcast.

There had been an attack somewhere in Paris with at least 10 death, but there were no other details yet. More news would follow in a quarter of an hour. I was shocked, but had no idea what had happened in Paris. I presumed it was a bomb.

From this favourite shop, I sauntered to the antique and second-hand shops in the Sablon area. It is one of my favourite Brussels areas. I passed the policemen who were on duty, guarding the Jewish Museum. The museum used not to have any police surveillance, but this changed after the recent attack.

From there, I walked to one of my cherished fritkots. After a petit paquet there, I sauntered uphill again. It had been a while since I visited the Sablon church. So I had a look inside, before walking round it. In one of the streets between this church and the lovely little park opposite it, another attack took place. It happened a while ago and I have no idea if the place still has police protection.

It was later that evening, far later, that I came home and put on the telly to watch the news. The full horror of what had happened in Paris was broadcasted and discussed on CNN, the BBC, all European television stations.

Horrified, I watched how someone, already lying wounded or dead in a Paris street, was shot again. Despite footage of similar acts in the UK, Canada, and other places in the world, having been broadcast, one does not become accustomed to the horror of such acts.

The scene in the Paris street must have been shown over and over again on all channels. Imagine being the dead person’s partner, relatives, friends, children and having to see it over and over again. Just like those who lost dear ones in the Twin Towers and other attacks have had to watch what took place over and over again, not only on the day or days afterwards, but down the years.

I watched a muslim mayor being interviewed on a tv channel. He referred to all the people trying to escape from Syria and others heading towards the free West. He said that people who could not cope with Western freedom and tolerance, were free to up sticks and find a place somewhere else in this world, where they and their views might be more appreciated. It was pretty clear, he was livid.

This evening, he will speech at a protest in his town. A protest organised as an act of support for the Paris victims and their family and friends, for freedom, for a tolerant society. Throughout Europe, there will be similar acts of support where journalists, writers, cartoonists, bloggers, police, mayors, politicians, ordinary people like you and me will demonstrate in support of the Paris victims, tolerance, freedom.

Perhaps you are not like me, and regularly join protest marches. Perhaps you are like me and prefer not to get involved whenever people demonstrate for or against something. This time, for the first time in my life, I will join a demonstration. For I do not understand how anybody can cry out God is Great, while killing and murdering and slaughtering parts of His Creation. For it is not je suis Charlie, but nous sommes Charlie.

I support a tolerant society, democracy, freedom of religion, press freedom, a great many more freedoms, ideas, points of view, and have a certain set of values. You may have different opinions, believes, views than mine, a totally different set of values and therefore totally disagree with me. That is your right.

Regardless of what you and me believe and cherish – our opinions, thoughts, ideas, values do not automatically give us the right to kill, murder, slaughter, and claim we do this in the name of God or whatever we believe in. That is us using God or whatever we believe in, as an excuse for evil deeds.