A Powerful Message Is Spreading in France

On Wednesday, France was devastated by the savage, execution-style murder of 12 of its citizens during a routine editorial meeting at satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Rallying in Paris on Wednesday night to mourn those killed by three gunman — apparently Islamic militants angered by the newspaper's cartoons of Islam's Prophet Muhammed — France defiantly refused to cower in fear of what President Francois Hollande called "a terrorist attack of the most extreme barbarity." One sign lifted high above the protesters read: "Not Afraid."

Charlie Hebdo shared that attitude, refusing to let a fire-bombing attack in 2011 stop it from publishing unapologetic, hard-hitting satire of current events. Editor Stephane Charbonnier and other staff were well aware their position on publishing cartoons satirizing Muhammad put them in danger; memorably, Charbonnier once said: "It perhaps sounds a bit pompous, but I'd rather die standing than live on my knees." Charbonnier had received a number of death threats, and was under police protection at the time of the attack.

Several French media institutions have offered to fund future issues of Charlie Hebdo in the wake of the attack, making clear that the paper's legacy will continue. Meanwhile, thousands of French citizens rallied Wednesday night to mourn their citizens and ensure that their country's freedom of speech and journalistic integrity — and that of their Chares Hebdo — will continue regardless of the threats levied against it.

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