Charlie Hebdo Marks Rocky First Anniversary of Violent Attacks

charlie hebdo one year_0106
One year after the attacks at the Paris offices of "Charlie Hebdo," the anniversary edition has hit newsstands. The attacks killed 12 people, including eight journalists, and began a year that saw Islamist militants kill civilians in deadly attacks around the world. Benoit Tessier/Reuters

On January 7, 2015, two gunmen entered the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people, including eight cartoonists, some whom the killers asked for by name. The attack—the first in a year that saw Islamist militant groups carry out deadly attacks on civilians worldwide—set off three tense days across France.

As police hunted the attackers, the country saw the shooting death of a 27-year-old policewoman in the suburb of Montrouge, a siege at a print works 22 miles northeast of Paris and hostage taking a kosher supermarket in the French capital, where four people were killed.

Charlie Hebdo marks year since attack with provocative cover #CharlieHebdo

— AFP News Agency (@AFP) January 4, 2016

To commemorate the anniversary of the attack at the magazine's offices, Charlie Hebdo published a special edition on Wednesday, of which 1 million copies were printed. Unlike the cover of the first postattack edition in January, which saw a cartoon of a crying Prophet Muhammad holding a sign reading "Je Suis Charlie," the new cover features a broader drawing of God. The divine being comes in the form of a cartoon of a bearded, long-haired man wearing a blood-stained robe and sandals, a rifle slung around his back, with the message: "One year on, the killer is still at large."

True to Charlie Hebdo's tradition of inciting anger, the cover has prompted harsh words from the Vatican, which dismissed the cover as blasphemous on Tuesday and said the drawing disrespects practitioners of all religions. Laurent Sourisseau, the cartoonist also known as Riss who drew the cover, penned an editorial for the issue which denounces "fanatics brutalized by the Koran" while reassuring readers that one year after the attacks, Charlie Hebdo will be sticking around.

In the year since the attacks, acts of violent extremism have morphed from revenge at a particular act—like the controversial cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo for a number of years—to a wider, more generalized risk against the public, says Suzanne Nossel, executive director of the PEN American Center.

"At the time of the attacks, there was a lot of discussion about the nature of the cartoons and the fact that they were offensive to some, and questions about whether Charlie Hebdo was right to publish them or not," Nossel tells Newsweek.

"What we've seen over the last year is that the violent extremism that fueled that attack goes well beyond an offense taken at any cartoon or message or viewpoint and is directed at targets as far flung as a center for the disabled in San Bernardino, California, or ordinary people at a concert in Paris," she says.

After last year's attack on its office, Charlie Hebdo suddenly found itself flooded with donations and a saw a spike in subscriptions, from 10,000 to more than 200,000, Vanity Fair reported in its deep-dive into the magazine's finances last year. Donations from the public, the French government and global organizations, including Google, meant that by the end of July, the anarchic magazine known as being "an irreverent mocker of all forms of power," had a reported $33 million in cash—although the magazine's owners said it was closer to half that sum, according to the Vanity Fair article.

French newspaper Liberation reported Wednesday that over the past year, "the influx of money has exacerbated tensions" at Charlie Hebdo, as questions swirl about what exactly will happen with the money. Ownership of the magazine is divided between the parents of Charlie Hebdo now-dead cartoonist and publisher Stéphane Charbonnier, known by the nickname Charb, who control 40 percent, and Riss, who owns 40 percent. This leaves the remainder with Eric Portheault, the publication's finance director. In March, Charlie staff published a manifesto in French daily newspaper Le Monde that asked: "How are we to escape the poison of the millions that, through exceptional sales and also donations and subscriptions, have fallen into the pockets of Charlie?" The staff also expressed a desire to stop the magazine from becoming solely a commercial enterprise.

Prior to the attacks, the magazine's weekly circulation was roughly 30,000 copies, yet the special edition of the magazine that went on sale after the attacks sold 7.5 million copies, Politico reports.

In September, Charlie Hebdo was criticized and threatened with legal action over its take on the refugee crisis and publication of a cartoon of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi. The magazine's staff in December also took on the deadly attacks that left 130 people dead in bars, restaurants and a concert venue in Paris, producing a cover showing a cartoon of a man drinking champagne that poured out of a number of bullet holes in his body. The caption read: "They have weapons. Fuck them, we have champagne!"

The attacks at the magazine's offices also resulted in increased media self-censoring in order to avoid threats or a repeat attack, says Nossel. To coincide with the first anniversary, Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders published a report, "Jihad Against Journalists," which details attacks against journalists by Islamic militant groups Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram. Charb was included on a 2013 list of 11 journalists wanted by Al-Qaeda for "crimes against Islam"; he was singled out and killed by gunmen who stormed the offices.

"It's only natural to think twice [about drawing or writing something] once people are murdered for the act of drawing a cartoon," says Nossel. "You can say all you want about the bravery and the resolve not to cow to the threat of violence, but it's a very human instinct of self-protection."

Ongoing attacks by militant groups, whether they're against civilians in Paris or atheist bloggers in Bangladesh, mean that desire to self-censor and for protection is "still at a feverish pitch," says Nossel. She doesn't expect that fear to end any time soon.

"We'll never know the breadth of expression that has been chilled by [the Charlie Hebdo attacks]," says Nossel.