Charlie Hebdo's Editor Stephane 'Charb' Charbonnier Was Defiant To The End: 'I'd Rather Die Standing Than Live On My Knees'

07/01/2015 16:34 | Updated 07 January 2015

Four of France's leading cartoonists are among 12 dead after a military-style attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo - widely compared to Britain's Private Eye magazine.

Charlie Hebdo's editor and publisher Stephane Charbonnier — known as Charb — died in the attack and was reportedly on an al Qaeda hit list. He had been assigned police protection and it's believed his protection officer was also.

cartoonists charlie hebdo

Four well-known French cartoonists were among the 12 people killed

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The four cartoonists known to have died, including Charb, created artwork for the magazine which was known for controversial caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, which many Muslims considered offensive and some deemed racist.

Charb consistently defended his right to satirise religion. In 2012, a year after the magazine's offices were firebombed by opponents, he said: "I have no kids, no wife, no car... I'd rather die standing than live on my knees."

The magazine's editor-in-chief Gerard Biard, who was in London at the time of the attack, told radio station France Inter that "a newspaper is not a weapon of war".

  • Charb, publisher and editor
    Stephane Charbonnier, 47, was the magazine's publisher, often known only as Charb. He had run the magazine since 2009, and also worked for TV show Télérama and magazine Fluide Glacial. One of his best-known cartoon series was a cat and dog pair called Maurice and Patapon, an irreverent duo whose stories often featured shocking, pornographic or political content. The title of his column in the magazine translates in English as "Charb does not like people". In 2013 Charlie Hebdo published a book called "The Life of Mohammed" which Charb said was a properly researched and educational work prepared by a Franco-Tunisian sociologist. "It is a biography authorised by Islam since it was edited by Muslims," he said, adding: "Before having a laugh about a character, it's better to know him. As much as we know about the life of Jesus, we know nothing about Mohammed."
  • AFP via Getty Images
    Charb stood outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo in 2011 after they were destroyed by a petrol bomb attack overnight. There were no injuries. The magazine had just published a special edition renaming the magazine Charia (Sharia) Hebdo and featuring a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad. In 2012 he said to Le Monde that the magazine would continue to satirise Islam until "it is as commonplace as Catholicism" to mock the religion. He told the Associated Press the same year, “A pencil is not a weapon. It’s just a means of expression.” “Mohammed isn’t sacred to me. I don’t blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. I live under French law. I don’t live under Quranic law,” he said.
  • Cabu, lead cartoonist
    BERTRAND GUAY via Getty Images
    Left-leaning Jean Cabut was known as Cabu. The 76-year-old's most famous cartoon character, 'Le Grand Duduche', appeared in the newspaper Driver in the 1960s. Le Grand Duduche is a lazy blond school student with small round glasses, thought to be loosely based on Cabu himself. He published a book about the boy - his favourite character - in 2012.
  • RDA via Getty Images
    Cabu, pictured here testing his designs on a photocopier in 1971, studied art in Paris. His early career included two years drawing for the French army newspaper, The Bled, during which he kept a pacifist stance.
  • Georges Wolinski, cartoonist
    Ulf Andersen via Getty Images
    "Luckily the world is evil. I could not bear to go wrong in a world that is well," Wolinski is quoted as saying. The 80-year-old Jewish artist was born in Tunisia, where his father was murdered, and later moved to France.
  • Ulf Andersen via Getty Images
    The well-known artist collaborated on a 2007 book with the French attorney Pierre-Philippe Barkats, called “Thanks, Hanukkah Harry” in which the protagonist fights against climate change and other ecological issues.
  • Tignous, cartoonist
    ALEXANDER KLEIN via Getty Images
    Cult cartoonist Bernard Velhac was best known under his pseudonym of Tignous. He was 58. Tignous was born in 1957 in Paris, and was a member of 'Cartooning for Peace', an initiative created in 2006 by Kofi Annan, then UN Secretary General, to promote tolerance through cartoons. He can be seen here in front of the Charlie Hebdo offices after they were destroyed by a petrol bomb attack overnight in 2011.
  • Giancarlo Gorassini/ABACA
    He created cartoons from 1980 and has published over 10 books. His first work appeared in L’Idiot International, La Grosse Bertha and L’événement du Jeudi.
  • Bernard Maris, contributor and investor
    Maris was a contributor to Charlie Hedbo, and a member of the Bank of France's General Council. He wrote for the magazine under the pen name "Oncle Bernard." Bank of France governor Christian Noyer said in a statement that Maris was "a cultured, kind and very tolerant man. He will be much missed. He added of the massacre: "This is a barbaric attack on the freedom of the press."

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