Newspaper review: 'Attack on freedom'

A sombre, grim and reflective set of national newspapers greets the UK on Thursday.

The facts of the terrorist attack on the Parisian offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo are reproduced everywhere.

Image copyright EPA

Three gunmen killed 12 people and wounded 11 after bursting into the offices of the publication, which had been firebombed in the past and been the subject of continued threats after cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed were published. At the time of writing, it is unclear if all the suspected gunman are still on the loose.

The Daily Mail captures the popular mood in its headline "the war on freedom".

Its sub-heading notes the slaughter at a magazine "that mocked fanatics" has led to "revulsion" sweeping the world.

The front 5 pages of the paper builds up a minute-by-minute picture of the attack, and include the shocking footage of the cold-blooded murder of a French policeman (who the paper names as Ahmed Merabet) after he lay injured on the pavement, having tried to stop the attackers getaway.

The Sun also runs the image large and headlines their front page Non!, the paper adds it is calling on "Muslim communities everywhere to stop the monsters who commit acts of barbarism in Islam's name".

The Daily Telegraph says the attack on Charlie Hebdo's HQ was carried out "with ruthless precision".

The attackers murdered eight cartoonists and satirists in the office, the paper reports, calling out their names as they shot them.

The Guardian pictures the scene from Nice - one of 30 French cities which hosted spontaneous demonstrations from people holding signs reading Je Suis Charlie, "in support of the right to free speech without fear of violence", the paper says.

Image copyright Reuters

It adds: "the attack was the bloody culmination of a long-simmering struggle between France's libertarian traditions of free speech and an increasingly extreme strand of Islamism".

The Independent's Cahal Milmo says the vigils in French cities have brought "dark reflections" then "burning defiance".

Milmo notes police protection of Charlie Hebdo had recently been scaled down as death threats, which had inundated the weekly and its editor Stephane Charbonnier since 2006, had slowed to a trickle.

A magazine staffer was quoted as saying: "We don't really take [the threats] seriously. We've got used to it. More recently we'd thought the threats would soon be a thing of the past."

Milmo adds: "France will wake to a day of national mourning for a group of individuals who it seems chose to live by the invocation of Mr Charbonnier, known as Charb, when he said in 2012: "'I prefer to die standing than to live on my knees'."


'No holds barred'

When journalists are killed and free speech threatened, the papers are never short of comments.

In the Times, columnist David Aaronovitch says fear of inciting violence has in a perverse way encouraged it.

Image caption David Aaronovitch

"This is the deal. The same tolerance that allows Muslim or Methodists freedom to practise and espouse their religion is the same tolerance that allows their religion or any aspect of it to be depicted, or criticised or even ridiculed.

"Take away one part of the deal and the other part falls too. You live here, that's what you'll agree to."

Aaronovitch adds: "We who don't publish what may offend Muslims but would offend no one else, act in effect to abnormalise what should be normal - we help make peculiar that which should be banal."

Daily Express columnist Leo McKinstry says Charlie Hebdo staff had "shown extraordinary courage in the face of Muslim fundamentalism. Now some of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice for that heroic commitment to freedom.

"Cringing, pusillanimous critics argue that the magazine was too provocative, too biting, but that is exactly what satire is meant to be.

Image copyright Daily Express
Image caption Leo McKinstry

"To tone down its material because of anxiety about giving offence would have meant that that the fanatics had won. Militant Islam would have been allowed to dictate the agenda."

Historian Simon Schama - writing in the Financial Times - traces the growth of Europe's satirical tradition from the 17th century religious wars through to "no holds barred" 18th century political mockery.

"Though the self-righteous have killed satirists they will never annihilate satire itself. Just the opposite," he writes.

"From now on Charlie Hebdo will be the rallying point for all those who cherish life and laughter over the death cult of sanctimonious gloom.

"We owe it to the fallen to remind ourselves... that just because the unhinged perpetrators are murderers does not mean they are also clowns."

Image caption Simon Schama

In its lengthy editorial, the Daily Telegraph says: "Free speech offers latitude but not necessarily license. It does not follow that because many newspapers, such as this one, do not publish cartoons of Mohammed that somehow we have been intimidated into not speaking out.

"Any suggestion that a publication failing to follow Charlie Hebdo's example is caving into terrorism is absurd: we all make editorial decisions to avoid offending people that have nothing to do with appeasing militant Islamists."

The paper continues: "However, the reaction to what happened in Paris could be far-reaching, and not just in France. Anti-Muslim attitudes are growing across Europe and are no longer confined to the far-Right extremes

"Paranoia can easily be stoked by the murders in Paris. It needs to be resisted, otherwise the terrorists really will have won."


Tiny revolutions

How do the cartoonists react to these murders, apparently justified by their perpetrators by their outrage at a series of cartoons?

Matt in the Daily Telegraph shows two heavily armed militants hesitating outside the Charlie Hebdo offices.

"Be careful, they might have pens," one tells the other.

Peter Brookes in the Times shows a sinister black-clad figure emerging from the top iron-work of the Eiffel Tower.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Stephane Charbonnier

Steve Bell in the Guardian, who has spoken out forcefully against fanaticism, has the three militants dressed in skeleton suits with Mickey Mouse ears, wondering why people are laughing at them.

The Independent's entire front cover (by artist Dave Brown) is a cartoon of a hand emerging, inkpen in hand, from the bloodied page of Charlkie Hebdo to "flip the bird" at terrorism.

The Financial Times carries perhaps the most poignant and prophetic cartoon.

Stephane Charbonnier's final work as "Charb" for Charlie Hebdo; it depicts an idiotic-looking armed man saying: "Still no attacks in France. Wait, one still has until the end of January to present new year wishes."

Daily Mirror cartoonist Martin Rowson, who is chairman of the British Cartoonists' Association, says: "What we laugh at best are our leaders and anyone else who thinks they've got answers they're going to force on to the rest of us.

"That's why George Orwell called every joke 'a tiny revolution'.

"But it's also the reason the Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat had his fingers broken by Assad's thugs... why British cartoonists like Vicky and Heath Robinson were on the Gestapo death list... and why my colleagues were gunned down in Paris.

"But you don't need blood to deal with despots - whatever their politics, whatever their religion: just laugh these murderous clowns back into the dustbin of history."


Outrageous rewards

After the big stories from Paris, the rest of the news seems small by comparison.

Angela Merkel's visit to London was overshadowed by news from France, but John Crace in the Guardian writes about a German chancellor who was unphased by a shouted "ich liebe dich" from a member of the public, and seemingly immune to Mr Cameron's less personal charm offensive.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption David Cameron is hoping to close the gulf between him and the German chancellor over EU reform

"In her relationship with the prime minister she is very much the dominant figure. The less she gives away, the needier Cameron becomes.

"'Collaboration … long-term economic plans … single EU market …,' he said, longing for some nod of approval from Mummy while anxious to sound as independently minded as possible for the benefit of the Eurosceptics in his own party," sketch-writer Crace reckons.

The NHS capacity crisis is still in full swing, and the Independent says extra cash to cope with increased winter demand on A&E departments "is not reaching critical areas effectively".

Doctors say the £700m in additional funding could have been more sensibly used if they had been given "more than a few months" to plan where it was going.

Convicted rapist Ched Evans seems on the brink of formally signing for Oldham for what the Daily Star reports will be a £2,500 a week contract lasting two-and-a-half years.

The paper says the club has been promised that it will not lose out financially if sponsors pull out, by Evans's fiancee's father.

Its "sources" say millionaire businessman Karl Massey has said he will "plug any cash holes left in the club's finances".

Other papers report Oldham are not taking up Mr Massey's offer.

Columnist Simon Kelner writing in the Independent says much of the antipathy Evans has had in his quest to resume his playing career after being released from prison stems from the fact he will be "reaping the outrageous financial rewards that this sport confers.

"Were he a bus conductor, binman or butcher, who would give a monkey's when he went back to his former job?" Kelner adds.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Tynemouth beach on Wednesday night: things are expected to get a wee bit choppier by Friday

Weather news, and the Daily Express reports that a "270mph jet stream" is "tearing in from the Atlantic" towards Britain.

The system, set to hit early on Friday and carry on into Saturday, could bring gusts up to 100mph in higher ground in northern Britain, and bring 50ft waves to exposed coastal regions.

And finally, the Times has news of a German judge, who - if the charges against him are correct - has certainly not shown much wisdom.

The paper reports the man, identified only as Jorg L, has appeared in court after having been arrested in a Milan hotel room in the company of a Romanian prostitute, £23,000 in cash, a handgun and 43 rounds of ammunition.

Judge Jorg had been on the run after being convicted of selling the answers to Germany's stringent law examinations, which he was supposed to be auditing.

Jorg - who had allegedly planned a new life in Namibia - also gave the answers to a woman he was attracted to.

"I thought that something else might possibly happen after her exams," he told a court back in Saxony.

The case, as they say, continues.

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