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French, US guilds condemn Charlie Hebdo massacre

Two suspects on the run after French magazine massacre leaves 12 dead.

French cinema industry guild L’ARP and its counterparts in the US have condemned a terrorist attack on the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in which 12 people were shot dead by two armed gunmen. At least four people were critically wounded in the attack.

At time of writing early on Thursday morning local time two men remained at large. They were identified as brothers Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi and are understood to be in their 30s.

“The cineastes of L’ARP learned with horror about the base attack on the newsroom of Charlie Hebdo and are devastated by this inexplicable act,” L’ARP said in a statement hours after the attack.

“They wish to express their full solidarity for the journalists and staff at Charlie Hebdo as well as their relatives and colleagues.

“Their historic bravery honours creation and freedom. Nothing, no threat or violent act, whatever the motive, whether it be political, religious or otherwise, will hinder the freedom of expression and freedom of creation.”

Filmmaker Claude Lelouch is currently the honorary president of L’ARP with the support of Oscar-winning Michel Hazanavicius and Dante Desarthe as co-presidents.

The board also includes Julie Bertuccelli, Joël Farges, Patrick Braoudé, Camille de Casabianca, Costa Gavras, Julie Gayet, Nicolas Gessner, Cédric Klapisch, Gérard Krawczyk, Jeanne Labrune, Radu Mihaileanu, Raoul Peck, Jean-Paul Salomé, Coline Serreau, Frédéric Sojcher and Eric Tolédano.

Indie producers statement

In a separate statement the Independent Producers Society (SPI) said: “Following the murderous attack which took place at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, the SPI wishes to express its total indignation at these crimes and this monstrous attack on the freedom of expression.

“In the name of the 400 independent production companies that we represent, we offer our sincere condolences to the families of the victims as well as all the staff of the magazine.”

In another act of solidarity, pay-TV channel network Canal Plus broadcast Stéphanie Valloatto’s Cartoonists – The Foot Soldiers of Democracy, about 12 cartoonists around the world who risk their lives for their art, on Wednesday evening. The documentary premiered as a Special Screening at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

Terrorist attack

The carnage at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the worst terrorist attack on French soil in more than four decades, has left France reeling and on high alert.

French media reported that gunmen burst in at around 11.30am local time during a weekly editorial meeting.

The 12 victims comprised editor and cartoonist Stéphane ‘Charb’ Charbonnier; economist and columnist Bernard Maris; cartoonists Jean ‘Cabu’ Cabut, Georges Wolinski, Philippe Honoré, Bernard ‘Tignous’ Verlhac; copy editor Mustapha Ourrad, psychoanalyst and contributor Elsa Cayat; maintenance officer Frédéric Boisseau; and Michel Renaud, a cartoon enthusiast who was attending the editorial meeting as a guest, and police officers Ahmed Meradet and Franck Brinsolaro who were at the scene – the latter as a special protection officer assigned to Charbonnier.

As French President Francois Hollande declared Thursday a national day of mourning, vigils in the Place de la République and other parts of France and Europe had spread across the Atlantic to the US and Brazil.

French flags were flying at half-mast on public buildings across France on Thursday and school children were scheduled to observe a minute’s silence at midday.

Hollywood support

The leading Hollywood Guilds demonstrated their support on Wednesday in a wide outpouring of solidarity for those who had been killed, the French public in general and the notion of freedom of expression.

Writers Guild Of America, West president Chris Keyser issued the following statement: “Today, as a Guild, we reaffirm our belief in the free and open expression of ideas and in the pact all of us must make with each other, not to agree, but to be tolerant of that with which we disagree.

“We stand with those, wherever they are, who write and speak their minds, which is a brave and necessary thing to do. And we hope for ourselves and wish for others the resolve never to be silenced by fear.”

The WGA East issued the following: “We are horrified that anyone would be murdered because of their satiric take on culture and politics. Engaging the world through stories, through cartoons, through creative expression might sometimes anger or offend. We must all condemn the cold-blooded slaughter at Charlie Hebdo.”

SAG-AFTRA said: “SAG-AFTRA offers its condolences to families of the French journalists and police killed in the attack at Charlie Hebdo. Our thoughts are with all French citizens affected by this despicable act of terrorism.

“Journalists know that their jobs carry risks, but these brazen killings were particularly shocking in that these journalists were not operating in an overseas combat zone, but were at work in their own offices in a democratic nation. The right to free speech is not only enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, we believe it is a universal human right, and we oppose all those who seek to squelch free expression.

“Today, SAG-AFTRA stands with the French people and the worldwide journalism community. Our hearts are with you.”

The Animation Guild said: “No human being who exercises the God-given right of free expression should be murdered for expressing an opinion or viewpoint that another part of humanity dislikes or even finds repugnant. The killing of French cartoonists and magazine staffers today was both cowardly and disgusting, and the Animation Guild stands with the French people in denouncing this act, and sends its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims.”

Earlier in the day President Barack Obama condemned the “cowardly evil attacks” and subsequently issued a written statement that read: “France is America’s oldest ally, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world. Time and again, the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended.”

Controversy

The left-wing and anti-establishment Charlie Hebdo was founded in the late 1960s against the backdrop of the Socialist movements of the time.

It is renowned for its irreverent, provocative cartoons and articles, tackling religion, politics, culture and, at times, even the cinema world. Luc Besson, Gérard Depardieu and Lars Von Trier are among the cinema personalities to have been caricatured on its covers over the years.

The magazine has courted controversy for it images of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. In 2011, its offices were firebombed in an attack linked to an edition entitled Charia Hebdo, jokingly listing the prophet as the guest editor. It also regularly took aim at the Catholic Church and Judaism. 

Socialist President François Hollande has also proved a popular subject while a cartoon last year told far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen to “Degage!”, or “Get Lost!”. 

The latest edition featured a caricature of writer Michel Houellebecq on the front page, ahead of the release of his novel Submission, envisioning France under the leadership of a Muslim president. 

Editor and cartoonist Charbonnier, who died in the attack, rigorously defended the magazine’s editorial stance and was defiant in the face of death threats, saying in an interview in 2012:  “I’m not afraid of retaliation. I don’t have children, a wife, a car, or credit. It perhaps sounds a bit pompous, but I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”

Jeremy Kay in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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