The former editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo responded to the terror attacks on the satirical French newspaper, saying now is the time for journalists and writers to “find the strength and courage not to be afraid.”
“I want people, journalists, authors, writers, intellectuals, artists, take something from what happened, from their heritage, because we are responsible for freedom in our countries. And we need courage to tell the real truth, to not deny reality, even when it is complicated,” Philippe Val said through a translator in an interview with ABC News.
“I hope today that we find the strength and the courage to not be afraid, to tell things as they are," he added.
Val is the latest to add his voice to global outpouring of condolence and outrage after gunmen killed 12 people and injured 11 more in a brutal massacre at the Paris-based newspaper’s offices Wednesday. Many cartoonists from around the world have memorialized their colleagues from Charlie Hebdo with their own editorial cartoons, some of which portray images of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The slogan "Je Suis Charlie," which translates to “I am Charlie,” spread rapidly on social media and become the latest protest slogan.
Val, who served as the head of Charlie Hebdo for 17 years, said he had known for decades two of the victims killed, cartoonists Jean Cabut and Georges Wolinski. Both Cabut and Wolinski had been with the newspaper since its inception in 1960.
“I can't accept that I will never see them again,” Val said. “I worked with Cabu for a very long time. We had been friends for 40 years. He was the type of man you don't come across often in a lifetime.”
Val added that he knew the newspaper had been under threat -- Charlie Hebdo was firebombed in 2011 after it published a feature with a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad -- and that he lived “for years” under police protection.
So when he heard about the attacks Wednesday, Val said, “I immediately thought about the people I loved, I immediately thought that something very serious had happened.”
“It was like a cultural 9/11 happening in France,” he said. “It was an act of war. I am a pacifist but I am not pacific, and if there is war, I prefer Churchill to Gandhi. I think we need to win this war. I think we must not be afraid. We must be like Churchill in these affairs, as much as we can, we must continue to work and have the courage to say things even if they are dangerous.”
“I think they tried to attack the ideas behind a free society. They tried to make people shut up and stop doing things that they found offensive,” Randazzo said in an interview with ABC News. “It is up to us, however, to make sure that we don’t allow fear, we don’t allow anger to dictate the kinds of things that we feel we can say.”
“Nobody should ever be killed for what they write, no matter how inflammatory it could be,” he added.
Randazzo served as an editor at The Onion for six years in its New York City offices, and said the Charlie Hebdo attacks “really hit home.”
"I've made so much of my career out of satire, out of enjoying the freedom of speech we have in America, and that all free societies should have, and whenever that freedom ... comes under threat, I think I feel like my very livelihood is coming under threat,” he said.
During his tenure there, Randazzo said “the most vitriolic responses” the newspaper received were from American soldiers and their families in responses to any commentary on the U.S. military. He said he had also received death threats and threats of other kinds of violence via email and phone over what was perceived as anti-Semitic commentary. To his knowledge, Randazzo said they never received threats from Islamic organizations.
“We would joke at The Onion that if there were ever any armed radicals who were offended by anything we wrote...the only defense that we had at our office was our very petite office manager, Jessie. So it was something that existed at the back of our minds,” he said.
But the real threat, Randazzo said, is allowing the terror attacks on Charlie Hebdo to scare people into silence.
The attackers "may have thought they are young and radical and they were attacking freedom, but what it really amounts to is the murder of 12 people and if we allow that to become anything more than that, they do stand a chance of scoring points, or accomplishing their goal,” Randazzo said. “We can still carry on, and still enshrine, or protect our free speech without reacting in a scared way.”