EL PAÍS pays tribute to victims of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ terrorist attack

Editorial staff joined by prominent French figures in defense of freedom of expression

EL PAÍS on Wednesday paid tribute to the victims of last week’s attack against French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo at an event held at the newspaper’s Madrid headquarters.

The tribute to freedom of expression was presided by El PAÍS editor Antonio Caño and attended by Juan Luis Cebrián, chairman of the newspaper and its parent company, the PRISA group; French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy; France’s ambassador to Spain Jérôme Bonnafont; and the Spanish paper’s three cartoonists, Peridis, Forges and El Roto.

Antonio Caño, EL PAÍS editor

There was also a recorded message by British historian Timothy Garton Ash, and a written testimony by Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo, an expert in Muslim affairs.

“Our own existence depends on the existence of Charlie Hebdo,” said Caño in his opening remarks. “Their freedom is our freedom. By killing them, some part of ourselves was killed as well.”

The editor of EL PAÍS said that even though these are complex and uncertain times, “there are moments when there is no room for doubt. There is no room for questions. Any question becomes the beginning of justification. We have no doubts here, and that is why we are holding this event.”

Caño read out a message by Juan Goytisolo, a regular contributor to EL PAÍS and an expert on the Muslim world. “No political, religious or ideological cause can be defended with machine guns. Defending freedom of opinion is something that concerns all citizens of the world regardless of nationality, beliefs or political affiliation,” he said in his statement.

“The perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo and Porte de Vincennes killings are the executioners of a demented jihad, not the martyrs that they dream of being. The real martyrs are their victims.”

In a video, Timothy Garton Ash noted that there were many Muslims among the millions of Europeans who marched in protest against the attacks.

The French ambassador to Spain, Jérôme Bonnafont, said that his embassy had received innumerable expressions of solidarity from Spain, “a country that is particularly familiar with the value of reconquering its freedom.”

“This is a war against terrorism,” he added, mirroring recent statements by France’s political leaders. “It is a tough war that we are going to wage together with our European partners, a war that will require exceptional measures but not a state of exception. We will fight with the weapons of the rule of law.”

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The thinker Henri-Lévy, who has written about Islam, said that following the Paris attacks “we have discovered that in Europe, we can still be executed over a drawing.”

Juan Luis Cebrián made the closing remarks, focusing on the need to instill the value of tolerance in society.

“We are afraid, but our decisions will not be guided by fear. There is no power in the world able to silence freedom of expression in our democracies,” he said.

Dominating the gathering was a giant reproduction of a double spread from Wednesday’s issue of Charlie Hebdo, which sold over three million copies in France within hours of it reaching newsstands.

EL PAÍS also published the spread in its four editions on Wednesday as a tribute to the victims of the attack, and to support the survivors’ desire to carry on with their work.