French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has condemned the petrol bomb attack on the Paris offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hedbo, saying it was an assault on the freedom of expression.
Freedom of expression is an inalienable value of democracy and any incursion against press freedom must be condemned with the utmost force. No cause justified violent action, Fillon said in a statement Wednesday.
Fillon's statement came hours after the attack destroyed the Hedbo offices and equipment. The fire at the magazine started around 1:00 a.m. local time in Paris; no injuries were caused, a police source said.
The attack was in retaliation for a special edition of the magazine published by Hedbo, designed to mark the Arab Spring uprisings, renaming the magazine Charia (Sharia) Hedbo for the occasion. The magazine had previously announced it would publish a special edition to celebrate the victory of Islamist party Ennahda in Tunisia and the transitional Libyan's executive's statement that Islamic Sharia law would be the country's main source of law.
On the cover, a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad read, 100 lashes if you don't die of laughter!
The depiction of the prophet is strictly prohibited in Islam.
To fittingly celebrate the victory of the Islamist Ennahda party in Tunisia ... Charlie Hedbo has asked Mohammed to be the special editor-in-chief of its next issue, the magazine said in a statement. The prophet of Islam didn't have to be asked twice and we thank him for it.
Humor aside, the magazine's editorial, by the Prophet, digs deep:
No religion is compatible with democracy from the moment a political party representing it wants to take power in the name of God. What would be the point of a religious party taking power if it didn't apply its ideas? Hello. We are the [Bolshevik] party and if you vote for us we promise never to speak of Communism ... Come on.
A witness at the scene, Patrick Pelloux, told AFP a Molotov cocktail was hurled through the window and set fire to the computer system, and destroyed a large amount of material in the office.
Charlie Hedbo's editor-in-chief, known as Charb, told France Info radio that we no longer have a newspaper.
We cannot, today, put together a paper, Charb said. But we will do everything possible to do one next week. Whatever happens, we'll do it. There is no question of giving in, he said, adding the magazine is filing a legal complaint against persons unknown.
On Tuesday, Charb rejected accusations he was trying to provoke a reaction.
We feel we're just doing our jobs as usual. The only difference is that this week, Muhammad is on that cover and that's quite rare, he told AFP.
But Charlie Hedbo has been here before. In 2007, a Paris court threw out a suit brought by two Muslim organizations against the magazine for reprinting cartoons of Muhammad that had appeared in a Danish newspaper, sparking outrage and protest by Muslims worldwide.