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Scholar critiques Charlie Hebdo’s “Angels and Demons”

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Mr Eric Sautede, a Macau-based political commentator from France, was invited to UIC on 29 April by the International Journalism Programme to illustrate the socio-political context of satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo.

During his lecture, “Charlie Hebdo: Angels and/or Demons”, Mr Sautede recalled the terrorist attack in the magazine’s Paris headquarters in January 2015. He also spoke of the hashtag slogan #jesuischarlie (French for "I am Charlie") that was adopted by Twitter followers. Supporters, especially journalists, turned the expression as a rally cry for freedom of self-expression and freedom of the press. This forum has been used to reproduce cartoons and images about the satire. As a result, the slogan generated 6,500 tweets a minute at its height, making it one of the most popular news-related hashtags in Twitter history. “Only in the social media age can we get access to immediate coverage across the world,” he added.

However, controversies were raised by members of the public. “Would it have received the same worldwide coverage if the shooting hadn’t happened in a Western democratic country? What if it had happened in the Middle East?” He questioned. Mr Sautede told the audience that there is a double standard in reporting terrorism as the media coverage of Charlie Hebdo overshadowed the bloodbath in Nigeria which occurred simultaneously.

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Audience members raise questions to the speaker

As a Frenchman himself, Mr Sautede understood the bitter humour of the magazine because “it’s part of the tradition to be satirical”. “Nevertheless” he stated “twisted religious values are becoming a threat in today’s world, bringing a wide wave of questions about France’s republican values.”

He showed the audience a copy of Charlie Hebdo’s 14 January issue that was published after the massacre. The front cover design featured a caricature of the Prophet holding a sign saying "Tout est pardonne" (French for "All is forgiven"). Instead of the usual 40,000 copies, this survival edition sold 7.95 million copies, becoming a record for the French press.

In addition, Mr Sautede explained the magazine’s raison d'etre and its evolution from the monthly magazine Hara-Kiri launched in 1960 to the present-day Charlie Hebdo.

Reporter: Sze Ying Cheong
Photographer: Yoyo Yang
(from IJ, with special thanks to Samuel Burgess and the ELC)

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