“Matzneff and the spirit of the times.” This is the title of an article published on Wednesday in Charlie Hebdo and written by its editor Gérard Biard.
Briard says he is a “little embarrassed that the writer Gabriel Matzneff, a notorious pedophile and exposed today at the centre of the news about a book written not by him but by one of his former victims,” and a “regular guest on the plateau of Apostrophes with host Bernard Pivot,” has not stood the test of time.
Despite his publication having defended Matzneff, the journalist now describes his actions as “crimes”. He continues: “The dandyism and the mundane inter-self which […] provided prestigious signatures when it published open letters demanding the release of imprisoned pedophiles, will nestle elsewhere. It is true that this period in time has worn off.”
Clearly embarrassed, the satirical weekly tried to backtrack on its public support, with part of the libertarian press, for pedophilia in its pages during the 70s and 80s.
Even though Matzneff has largely benefited from a media leniency, especially from the left, Charlie Hebdo went so far as to defend the three pedophiles in the “Versailles affair”, the day after a petition appeared in French daily Le Monde and written by… Matzneff himself.
At the time, the trial of these three men began, tried for “indecent assault without violence on minors under 15 years old” and they were placed in preventive detention for three years. The satirical newspaper, then headed by Professor Choron, published an article on January 27, 1977, titled “Morals” and signed by Victoria Thérame, which was also reprinted in the communist daily L’Humanité.
Charlie Hebdo defended Bernard Dejager, Jean-Claude Gallien and Jean Burckardt, who appeared before the Versailles Court on January 27, 28 and 29 at 1 p.m. because they “risked five to ten years of criminal imprisonment for loving a child”.
The defendants were sentenced to suspended imprisonment (and therefore released) for their crimes, after having committed reciprocal masturbation and blowjobs, orgies and sodomy on young children.
Years later, Patrick Font, columnist for Charlie Hebdo who had formed with his friend and boss of the newspaper between 1992 and 2009, Philippe Val, the “comic duo” Font and Val (1970-1995), was himself eventually condemned, in 1998, to six years in prison for sexually assaulting minors.
The satirical weekly rose to global fame in 7 January 2015, after two jihadists forced their way into the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo and opened fire, killing twelve people and wounding eleven, four of them seriously.
The day after the attack, the remaining staff of Charlie Hebdo announced that publication would continue, with the following week’s edition of the newspaper to be published according to the usual schedule with a print run of one million copies, up significantly from its usual 60,000.
On 13 January 2015, the BBC reported that the first issue after the massacre would come out in three million copies. But due to the huge demand in France, the print run was raised from three to five million copies.
Despite the increased sales, the French government granted nearly €1 million to support the magazine, while The Digital Innovation Press Fund [Fonds Google–AIPG pour l’Innovation Numérique de la presse], partially funded by Google, donated €250,000 matching a donation by the French Press and Pluralism Fund. The Guardian Media Group pledged a donation of £100,000.
On 29 December 2016, Russia accused Charlie Hebdo of mocking the Black Sea plane crash after publishing “funny” cartoons about the disaster. The crash claimed 92 lives, including 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble choir.
A Russian official called the cartoons “a poorly-created abomination” while a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said: “If such, I dare say, ‘artistry’ is the real manifestation of ‘Western values’, then those who hold and support them are doomed”.
Charlie Hebdo has not yet published satirical cartoons about the deaths of their staff members. Instead, there are tearful programmes about the difficulties that the survivors of the jihadist shooting are facing on French public television.