Inside a Paris Newsroom After the Charlie Hebdo Attacks

Yesterday, a brazen terror attack left 12 dead in and around the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly satirical newspaper in Paris. According to Johan Weisz-Myara, publisher of the online news magazine StreetPress, the alleged attackers then hijacked a car not 100 meters from his newsroom. Here, Weisz-Myara talks about the incident, the aftermath, and the media’s responsibility during news events like this one.

How did events unfold in and around your office yesterday?

We heard the news on our social networks first. Then we started getting text messages. A few minutes later the terrorists hijacked a car on our block to get out of Paris. The first thing we did as journalists was go to the place it happened and start asking questions—neighbors and people like that.

Once we got back to the newsroom we asked ourselves, what should we do? After the anger, the hot news, what is our responsibility as the media? Because when you have a terrorist attack, you have the attack itself, and then you have something bigger, which is the psychological impact and the impact in the media.

What’s the security situation at your office right now?

Our newsroom is 30 meters from a synagogue, and there are two policemen in front of that, but they’re there for the synagogue, not us. At bigger newspapers you have policemen out front.

How has the incident affected your operations as a media outlet?

I think we feel accountable with everything we write and everything we post on social networks. Right now it all has such an impact. And even if you can’t hear it in my voice because I’m very tired, we’ve really tried to keep smiling and act, in a certain way, as if nothing happened. Because the terrorists’ goal is to turn communities against one another, and make people angry and paranoid.

Have the attacks affected your editorial decisions?

We wrote an op-ed entitled “Pourquoi l’attentat nous rend (déjà) cons” (How the Terror Attacks Have Already Made Us Crazy). In it, we explain that we had to change some stories we had planned to publish.

Such as?

For instance, today we had planned to publish an article about a French imam who is very present in the media and criticized by many people in the Muslim community. Obviously if we published it today it would mean something more than what we wanted. It would be over-interpreted. So that will be published next week instead.

Are you concerned that this incident will have a chilling effect on the French media’s reporting in general?

I don’t think the French media will be frightened to publish caricatures of any kind because we have a deep culture of freedom of expression. I feel the real trap is the way the media will speak about different communities.

Are you already seeing the media begin to lash out at certain communities?

Most of the media are working in an accountable way, but for instance, in an editorial about the attacks in [the daily newspaper] Le Figaro, the title is “Guerre,” which means “War.” And when you start calling it war, I think you fall into that trap, because the terrorists want it to be war. The title “War” is very frightening to me.

Can you give us some context around the French media? Is it very polarized like in the United States?

No, it’s definitely not like in the U.S. I don’t think that the left-wing/right-wing opposition is really relevant for yesterday’s terror attack.

Do you think the attacks will have a long-term effect on attitudes toward Islam in France?

It would be naïve to say there won’t be a before and an after. But it’s also not obvious that things will be worse. Maybe it’s going to be better. Maybe we will have an evolution and the terrorists will lose. Maybe they killed 12 people, and now French society will be clever and understand that the best answer is to unite and not to divide.

We’ll see how it’s going to work. It’s not compulsory that the attack will make things worse. That’s the goal of the terrorists, but maybe we are stronger than them. I think we are.

Learn More:



Stay calm and carry a big pen!

Never the slime balls win.

Awake, Organize, Move!

It is terrible what is happening and I so admire the Bosnian imam who is fighting against it. In my opinion more of them should join him and make their voices heard. What the media should understand is that much of the fighting in the Arab countries is people fighting against al quaida. I am sorry that this will cause the media to rise up against normal Muslim people.

I abhor violence in any shape or form, the attack in Paris brings to the fore-front the dilemma of the freedom of speech-freedom of the press. I pride myself on being open minded but of recent I came across a cartoon of Jesus having anal intercourse with himself and I was deeply offended; though I have made a few wise cracks about Jesus.

I also read in the paper that the late queen mother was insane and a drunk, I have no personal dealings with the royal family of Britain, but I was deeply offended by it imagine how her family must have felt. As journalists you have rights but you at times lack decency. Not everything is printable or released for public consumption. Now on what happened: let's say I suddenly decide to draw cartoons, caricatures of Pope Francis kissing a woman or another lewd act how do you think the Catholics in Argentina would react? Maybe in Europe they'll laugh it off. We have to learn to respect each other, we might think its all hogwash but its not our call to make. Until the Islamic scholars start to dismantle openly the mysticism around the Koran it has to be hands off the subject. May their souls rest in peace and may their deaths not be in vain.

I think it is time to have meaningful debate on this issue. I apreciate the thoughtful comments by Weisz-Myara. Killing of 12 journalists is very tragic. Our world is in need of finding ways to better commmunicate our disagreements, to avoid such tragedies. I hope together we can find ways to do this.

Through such kind of inhuman activity they are proving them self that they are not doing work for the betterment of there people (who are a part of it) and this is also a proof that it is going to end soon.
May the soul of 12 departed brave personalities rest in peace and the Almighty give strength to there families

Here are a few lines that I wrote on this occasion

Let the darkness of night descend on all of us
A thick, cozy, warm darkness
That eliminates multitudes of identity
Based on sex, color, race, beliefs and ideology
Where soul can speak to the soul
A monastery which illuminates the inner space
Much better than
All the knowledge produced in the daylight dictates
Of power, wealth, and podiums of arrogance
Let the freedom to be prevail
Over the desire to be a secluded me
Let the dark oneness of night
Overcome the bright daylight walls
of breaking news, sermons and speeches
Isn’t the ambiguity of darkness-
A step ahead of certainty of shallowness of clarity

It's a cowardly subhuman hideous crime which should never been imagined in our widest of nightmares!

I believe that killing in Paris should make the whole world more resolved against terrorism. In my country Nigeria a newspaper house was bombed at the wake of the Boko Haram insurgents. Over 200 of our chibok secondary school are still missing and it bleeds every rational human heart.
Some groups of faceless people have no right to hold the whole of humanity to ransom for whatever reason.
We cannot fight to create a religious divide in my part of the country for example husbands and wives and even siblings have different religions.
So it's like attacking the very fabric of society.

Add your voice