The horrible attack on Charlie Hebdo is so fresh it’s very hard to see its context. We don’t know who did it, or why exactly, or even what exactly happened. I recommend @AFP for the latest news. This brutal attack on the razor sharp and thoroughly funny paper (excellent for one’s French) is indescribable, at least, to me.
Google Charlie Hebdo now and you’ll be flooded with news about today’s attack. So I looked in the LexisNexis newspaper database for earlier incidents and threats at the newspaper. Charlie Hebdo was founded in 1970 and stopped in 1982, but was resurrected under new leadership in 1992. It has always been very controversial, but didn’t start to have serious security problems until it started to satirize muslims, islam and the prophet Muhammed.
At first the staff handled the threats quite cheerfully, but after they published a theme issue on islam in 2011, the building was set on fire. They moved to new, non-descript quarters and started taking their security more seriously. But they never toned down their satire, and although they didn’t advertise their new address, it wasn’t kept secret. In 2013 they published a special edition about the life of Mohammed, and the reactions weren’t very bad. No death threats. In the Volkskrant (Dutch) editor Charb was quoted as saying the risk of falling off his bicycle was bigger than running into a terrorist with serious plans (paraphrased).
And for a long time, that seemed true. There are no articles on the subject published between the one I quoted, January 2013, and today. I don’t know if the threats were intensifying lately. In the article Charb also defended the decision to go on after the threats: ‘We won’t adjust to the countries that they (the people who threatened Charlie Hebdo – PB) live in. Im not saying that to be provocative, but because it would be grotesk.’ On the question of wether that was stupid or a brave thing to do, I’ll go with brave. But it’s incredibly sad twelve people, including Charb, had to give their lives for it today.

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More on the history of Charlie Hebdo on its Wikipedia page

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