The Listening Post

The return of Charlie Hebdo

The controversial magazine continues to make headlines; plus, the screwball comedy that turned into political standoff.

Despite the attack that claimed ten lives at the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015, the publication returned to the newsstands one week later.

Staff claim that five million copies were distributed, a print run that is 80 times higher than normal. Just days before, an estimated 1.5 million people took to the streets of Paris to protest against the attack. Among the ranks were world leaders determined to show their commitment to freedom of expression. However, the act quickly drew criticism on social media.

Twitter was alight with Turks, Egyptians and Russians accusing their governments of hypocrisy and double standards given the treatment of journalists back at home. The debates taking place around this story came in myriad forms: news conferences, editorials, blogs, broadcasts and evermore cartoons.

Helping us make sense of the dominant themes in the news coverage are our contributors; author Anshuman Mondal; London-based journalist Myriam Francois-Cerrah; Aurelien Mondon from the University of Bath (UK); and from Index on Cencorship, Melody Patry.

Other news stories on our radar this week: Now they subpoena him; now they do not – the curious case of the New York Times reporter James Risen, the CIA and the American justice system; Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger sentenced to ten years in jail, received 50 lashes this week and has another 950 coming; and Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong media magnate and pro-democracy supporter has had his office and home firebombed.

North Korea and the Sony hacking scandal

The story of the Hollywood movie The Interview, North Korea and the hacking of Sony Pictures made news and a fair amount of gossip around the world, but it also revealed a lot about the way journalists report on intelligence matters. When news broke that Sony Pictures had been hacked and reams of its confidential information leaked online, Washington was quick to blame the attack on North Korea.

Despite Pyongyang’s denials and all the cyber experts who questioned the veracity of the evidence, a number of news outlets – including The New York Times and the Washington Post – afforded US officials anonymity while pointing the finger at the hermit kingdom. As history has shown, a dangerous trend in intelligence reporting.

Then there is the way that the film, and the controversy attached, was received by the countries involved. When threats of “9/11 styled” attacks on theatres that showed The Interview surfaced, many Americans saw it as their patriotic duty to watch the film because they saw it as a freedom of expression issue. In Pyongyang, the state broadcaster was calling it an act of war.

The Listening Post’s Nicholas Muirhead takes a look at how a screwball comedy turned into a serious story that failed to get the media coverage its seriousness deserved. 

In our end note this week, we take a look at Rupert Murdoch’s views in the aftermath of the Paris shooting. The media mogul tweeted, “Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognise and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.”

In the UK, offence code 125 is texting on your mobile phone while driving. On Rupert Murdoch’s Twitter feed, it is offending up to 1.6bn Muslims in 125 characters. We compiled some of the responses that he received, from the politically pointed to the parodies.