This is the introduction to Creativity Is Risky: Free Speech in a Charlie Hebdo World

manu pen dagger
Both images here commissioned and published by Medium on January 14, 2015, and republished on La Reprise. Reprinted with permission by Emmanuel Letouzé (Manu.)

On January 7, 2015, two brothers killed 11 journalists and injured 11 others at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo (Weekly Charlie) because of its cartoons depicting Muhammad and other Islamic figures.

They also killed a Paris police officer outside the offices at 10, Rue Nicolas-Appert. The gunmen, later killed, identified themselves as belonging to the Yemen branch of terror group Al Qaeda. Several related attacks took place within the next two days. In all, 17 people were killed and 22 wounded.

In the wake of murders at the magazine, New York-based French cartoonist Emmanuel Letouzé, whose pen name is Manu, published a comic strip to express his grief on, later republished on French website, launched by scholar and immigration specialist Patrick Weil.

They Murdered My Idols tells the story of his love of cartooning and his admiration for Charlie Hebdo.

lareprise“Cabu was a giant. Perhaps the greatest French cartoonist ever,” he wrote, referring to Jean Cabut, 76, Charlie Hebdo’s lead cartoonist. “And he got killed with an AK-47 for this.” Cabu had been honored with the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest civil decoration, in 2005.

Like Manu, people all over the world reacted to the violence with a mix of incomprehension and grief. Charlie Hebdo’s survivors chose to react with resolve. Within a week, the magazine rose from the ashes like a phoenix to publish again.

The publication has come to represent persecuted writers and artists who do not lose their commitment to free expression despite the possibility of jail, torture and even death.

In these pages, you will hear from journalists, professors, human rights activists and everyday people. From these perspectives, we share a tribute to free expression, with- out which we would be unable to question institutions, defend the vulnerable, laugh at ourselves, or cry. And where would we be without that?

Writers and artists fly far ahead, helping us to understand and interpret our world.

This is for them.

-Sally O’Dowd

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