Charlie Hebdo Editor in 2012: 'I Prefer to Die Than Live Like a Rat'

PHOTO: Stephane Charbonnier is pictured on Sept. 19, 2012 in Paris.PlayFred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images
WATCH Charlie Hebdo Editor in 2012: I'd Prefer to Die Than Be Silenced

After controversy erupted in 2012 over the cartoons portraying Muslim prophet Mohammed in the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, ABC News' Jeffrey Kofman interviewed the periodical's editor and cartoonist, Stephane Charbonnier.

And Charbonnier remained defiant in the face of the threats against his publication.

"Our job is not to defend freedom of speech but without it we're dead. We can't live in a country without freedom of speech. I prefer to die than to live like a rat," Charbonnier told ABC News.

The attack at the newspaper in Paris killed at least 12 people today -- including Charbonnier.

12 Dead in 'Terrorist' Attack on Paris Satirical Magazine

The publication aimed to poke fun at religious, government, popular figures and institutions. It was banned in 1970 after publishing a cartoon lampooning media coverage of deadly fire, according to translated text from Charlie Hebdo's website.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Get real-time updates as this story unfolds. To start, just "star" this story in ABC News' phone app. Download ABC News for iPhone here or ABC News for Android here.