What is Charlie Hebdo?
A French satirical magazine.
The paper has never sold in enormous numbers – and for 10 years from 1981, it ceased publication for lack of resources.
But with its garish front-page cartoons and incendiary headlines, it is an unmissable staple of newspaper kiosks and railway station booksellers.
Drawing on France’s strong tradition of bandes dessinees (comic strips), cartoons and caricatures are Charlie Hebdo’s defining feature. Over the years, it has printed examples which make its representations of Muhammad look like mild illustrations from a children’s book.
Police would be shown holding the dripping heads of immigrants; there would be masturbating nuns; popes wearing condoms – anything to make a point.
As a newspaper, Charlie Hebdo suffers from constant comparison with its better-known and more successful rival, Le Canard Enchaine.
Both are animated by the same urge to challenge the powers-that-be.
But if Le Canard is all about scoops and unreported secrets, Charlie is both cruder and crueller – deploying a mix of cartoons and an often vicious polemical wit.
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