We Are Still Charlie

French political cartoonist Jean-Marc Héran displays his work inside a bookstore in the French city of Aix-en-Provence. Courtesy of Kami Rice

French political cartoonist Jean-Marc Héran displays his work inside a bookstore in the French city of Aix-en-Provence.
Courtesy of Kami Rice.

I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to be watching, but it was too intriguing not to. Tucked away yesterday in a corner of the front terrace of the Librarie Goulard, one of the bookstores lining Aix-en-Provence’s storied Cours Mirabeau, Jean-Marc Héran was drawing. And I was watching over his shoulder from a few feet away.

I could only see the side of his face, so I can’t be certain, but it certainly looked like he was smiling and amusing himself as the idea emerged and he drew, hand covered in a drawing glove and moving over the tablet computer on the desk while the image appeared on the larger monitor in front of him.

He was an artist, and a journalist, at work.

It was a rare window into one spoke of the wheel of the journalism world I’m a part of too – and it was a particularly poignant window. Here I was, freely watching a French political cartoonist at work just months after others of his ilk were murdered because of what their drawings said.

Both Héran and I were there on this southern France bookstore’s terrace because of World Press Freedom Day, a day proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993. Between Héran’s tucked-away desk and the street, the space underneath the large plane tree in the center of the terrace was filled with a crew broadcasting the day’s 15 hours of programming. It was all slated to run live on DailyMotion.com and partner channels, but technical difficulties rendered the interviews to availability online, during World Press Freedom Day.

Passing before the cameras and microphones were various stripes of journalists, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist François Mitten, and others with something to say about press freedom. The event included evening concerts and two artists painting new canvases.

An artist works on a press freedom painting during World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Aix-en-Provence, France. Courtesy of Kami Rice.

For most of the day, the crew members outnumbered the handfuls of spectators who paused in their wanderings along the wide boulevard that is a center of all that happens in Aix. But for Bernard Beka, a veteran war reporter who organized the event in partnership with Reporters Without Borders, if even just eight people listened and were touched by what they heard, then that would suffice.

He noted the presence of a budding 12-year-old journalist and the importance of getting these messages to the next generation.

Jean-Jacques Lumbroso, another of the broadcast’s organizers, echoed Beka in noting that a day like this is for the citizens more than for journalists.

And Héran, the political cartoonist, said that, while in his line of work it is always freedom-of-the-press day, a special day for calling everyone’s attention to the essentialness of a free press is important if we are to get people to listen and take notice. We can’t forget, he said, that there are journalists imprisoned around the world, people who are killed, and people who can’t express themselves.

Kami L. Rice is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists International Community. Previously based in Nashville, Tenn., she has been living in southern France since 2012, continuing her work as a freelance journalist and editor. Her work has appeared in more than 50 online and print publications, and she has reported from more than 15 different countries. You can follow her on twitter (@KamiTheWriter) or visit her website (www.kamirice.com) for more info.


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