Charlie Hebdo’s former editor-in-chief: “We have laughed so much, we must continue to laugh.”

From left, Philippe Val, French director Daniel Leconte, Charlie Hebdo’s lawyer, Richard Malka, and French cartoonist Georges Wolinski at the Cannes Film Festival. Wolinski was killed in yesterday’s attack.
From left, Philippe Val, French director Daniel Leconte, Charlie Hebdo’s lawyer, Richard Malka, and French cartoonist Georges Wolinski at the Cannes Film Festival. Wolinski was killed in yesterday’s attack.
Image: AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau
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Philippe Val, former editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo has spoken to radio channel France Inter right after the attack in Paris.

Here is the English translation of his poignant tribute to his former colleagues and friends. It’s a celebration of their courage, as well as a call for France to stay united and strong:

“I’m in very bad shape. But that’s normal, right? I lost all my friends today.

They were such lively people, who cared so much about bringing joy to people, making them laugh, who cared about giving them generous ideas. They were very good people, the best amongst us, of course, like all those who make us laugh, like all those who stand for freedom, who stand for our being able to come and go freely and safely.

They have been murdered. This is a dreadful slaughter, and we can’t let silence take over; we must help ourselves. Right now we must join forces against this horror. Terrorism must not get in the way of the joy of living, the freedom of expression. These seem like dumb words but it’s democracy that is at stake here—that sort of brotherhood that allows us to live. We can’t allow this to… We must… It’s an act of war.

We must… Perhaps it would be good if tomorrow all the newspapers were called Charlie Hebdo, if we titled them all Charlie Hebdo—if all of France were titled Charlie Hebdo. This would show that we are not okay with this, that we will never accept this, that we will never stop laughing, that we’ll never… our freedom… we can’t abandon that.

They were absolutely wonderful people. Cabu was a genius, a genius of kindness, of talent. [Interviewer: “A child, a big child.”] Yes. Charb, all those people, all those people, I can’t accept that they are all dead, my friend Bernard Maris, all.

All those people, I can’t even manage to mention them all—we can’t leave them, we must stand up, we have to remain together, united. They were not bad people, they were people who just wanted to live happily, who wanted to grant humor its place in life. That’s all, it’s just that, and that’s what’s been murdered.

We can’t stand this, we must move. I’m sorry to say this, but perhaps the media wasn’t up to the job with this radicalization. For many people who are Muslim today this is a catastrophe, they are in danger too. We [the media] haven’t spoken enough of the dangers of fundamentalism in France, we haven’t rung the alarm bell enough.

[At Charlie Hebdo] we have done what we could, and we’ve often been alone—today I am practically all alone, all my friends are gone. And this was not for a bad cause, it was so that we all could live, so that kids were free to come and go, and say silly things, without danger.

It’s horrible, what happened is horrible. There was a before and there is an after.

Our country will never be the same, a certain kind of journalism has been wiped out, those who have been exterminated were all people capable of causing laughter with serious ideas. It’s a terrible grief that falls on us, but we can’t let silence win. Elisabeth Badinter had said this during the trial for the caricatures, that if they were convicted silence would have fallen on us. Well, today we must ensure that it never falls on us, we must speak , we must say what we feel, we must say what we think.

I don’t have faith. It’s a shame, I would perhaps love to have faith today, because if I had it I would tell them how much I love them, how much they have been indispensable in my life, and how much they are indispensable for all the people who need freedom to live. They made them laugh, they were joyous [interview: “Democracy is joy, too.”].

We have laughed so much, we must continue to laugh—it is difficult today but it’s the absolute weapon, laughing. It’s the weapon of brotherhood—we must let people laugh, we must let them ridicule the bastards. We must hold on, we really must be together.”