Friday, November 06, 2015

Charlie Hebdo angers Russia over 'vile' cartoons

The Kremlin has angrily condemned the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing political cartoons focusing on the Egypt plane crash in which 224 people died, most of them Russian tourists.

One cartoon shows debris and human remains raining down on an armed IS militant, with the caption: "IS: Russian aviation is intensifying bombardments," a reference to its air strikes in Syria.

Another shows a skull with a pair of sunglasses hanging off it with the crashed plane in the background. It is titled "The dangers of Russian low-cost airlines", and the speech bubble says "I should have taken Air Cocaine," a reference to a current scandal over French pilots smuggling drugs from the Dominican Republic.


"In our country we can sum this up in a single word, sacrilege," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists. "This has nothing to do with democracy or self-expression. It is sacrilege."

The Kremlin spokesman called the cartoons "unacceptable" but said Russia would not make an official complaint.

Others were more scathing of the cartoons. "It's not satire but filthy mockery," Ivan Melnikov, the deputy speaker of the lower house, told Russian state TV.

Writing on Twitter, the lower house of parliament's international affairs chief Alexei Pushkov said, "Is there any limit to Russophobia on the pages of Western media?"

"As the whole world condoles with us, Charlie Hebdo preaches its vile right to sacrilege," he added. "The caricatures are overgrowing the boundaries of French journalism. They are so sacrilegious that they require some kind of reaction from the French officials. Their silence will mean their tacit consent to Charlie's usurped right to mock and scoff at the tragedy," Alexey Pushkov, head of the Russian State Duma, told TASS.

French reaction

Mainstream French media has barely commented on the story however, and the French foreign ministry has only responded in releasing a statement saying that "journalists are free to express their opinions in France" and that "the authorities do not get involved."

Charlie Hebdo, which is based in Paris, was the target of a terrorist attack in January. Two Islamist gunman killed 10 of the magazine's staff at its offices and two policemen outside.

The magazine has a history of controversial satire and has been accused previously of insensitivity. It was criticised by Twitter users on Friday, with the hashtag "I'm not Charlie" among the top trends in Russia - a reference to the "Je Suis Charlie" hashtag popular in the wake of the January attack [France 24 / BBC / NYP / TASS].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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