Charlie Hebdo: French newspaper enjoyed 'kicking hornets' nests'
Published Wednesday, January 7, 2015 8:55AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 7, 2015 4:56PM EST
French police confirmed Wednesday that 12 people were shot and killed by gunmen at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly newspaper.
The publication has been known to provoke controversy through its stories, cartoons and jokes. Over the years it has prompted outrage and anger from many as it took aim at politicians, celebrities and religious figures.
A quick look at its Twitter feed shows recent cartoon depictions of French President Francois Hollande, North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un and Boko Haram sex slaves.
One of the magazine's recent cartoons, published in this week's issue, seemed to make a chilling prophecy. In it, an extremist fighter is depicted saying in French, "Still not attacks in France… wait, we have until the end of January to present our New Year's wishes."
Journalist Eric Margolis has visited Charlie Hebdo's offices in the past. He told CTV News Channel that the newspaper's staff enjoyed creating controversy.
"These were young guys with computers enjoying their work, and revelling in being exceptionally provocative and getting people angry at them, and saying things that some people considered outrageous," Margolis said. "They certainly enjoyed kicking hornets' nests."
While the newspaper has targeted everyone from former president Nicolas Sarkozy to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, it has had a particularly tense relationship with Muslims in France for its several depictions of Muhammad. It is prohibited in Islam to depict the Prophet.
Here's a look at some of some of the newspaper's controversies over the years:
Reprinting Jyllands-Posten cartoons
In 2006 the newspaper reprinted the 12 cartoons depicting Muhammad that were originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The original cartoons, which were also reprinted by several European newspapers, prompted protests and violent riots in some Muslim countries.
In Canada, the Western Standard published the controversial cartoons. Following their publication, a human rights complaint was launched against the magazine's publisher Ezra Levant. The complaint was dismissed in 2008.
Issue "guest-edited" by Muhammad
In November 2011, the newspaper's offices were fire-bombed after the editors announced that Muhammad had been invited to serve as the "guest editor" for an upcoming issue.
The issue featured a cartoon depiction of Muhammad on its cover, with the prophet saying "100 lashes if you are not dying of laughter."
Cartoons prompt closures of French embassies, consulates
In 2012, the newspaper published a series of crude caricatures of Muhammad. In some of the cartoons the Prophet appears naked.
The cartoons were published amid ongoing protests over the controversial U.S. film "The Innocence of Muslims," which many saw as insulting to Muhammad and Muslims.
Before the publication of the cartoons, the French government had called on the newspaper to reconsider printing them, but the newspaper refused.
As a result, the French government increased security at some of its embassies and consulates and issued a warning for French citizens living or travelling to Muslim countries.
At the time, a cartoonist for the newspaper who goes by the name Luz told AP that the cartoons were a means of expression.
"We treat the news like journalists. Some use cameras, some use computers. For us, it's a paper and pencil," he said. "A pencil is not a weapon. It's just a means of expression."
Charlie Hebdo chief editor Stephane Charbonnier – who was killed on Wednesday -- also defended the publication of the cartoons.
"I don't blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawing," he told AP. "I live under French law. I don't live under Quranic law."
With files from The Associated Press