A mural beside Le Carillon depicts Robert Doisneau’s famous couple with bullet wounds.
At Paris’ five-star L’hôtel The Peninsula, a luxe Mongolian-style yurt currently occupies its sprawling Terrasse Kléber. Guests are invited to drink hot chocolate and nosh on tartines while lounging amid mattresses and fur throw rugs strewn beneath a chandelier made of antlers. On the garden patio of the equally swanky Hôtel du Collectionneur in the neighboring 8th Arrondissement, patrons can sip champagne and nibble canapés inside a large, transparent bubble festooned with elegant floral designs.
I can’t help but think that the yurt and the bubble signify something beyond the novelties of snacking in a rustic-chic tent and getting tipsy in an upmarket snow globe. A year after terrorist attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket killed 17, and less than two months after gunmen murdered 130 others on Nov. 13, these whimsical, cozy spaces seem to embody a collective desire to find refuge from the bad memories of a 2015 that a recent Agence France-Presse headline dubbed an “année de merde,” or,”a shit year.”
This past Wednesday, Charlie Hebdo released a special anniversary edition. The cover depicts an image of a God with splotches of blood on his robes and a Kalashnikov strapped to his back. Beneath the cartoon is the headline, “A year later the murderer is still on the loose” — another of the magazine’s signature jabs at religion. The first page contains a disturbing blow-by-blow account of what happened at the magazine’s editorial offices on Jan. 7, 2015, when the fanatical Kouachi brothers gunned down 12 people, including eight staff members.
“It was unthinkable that in 21st-century France journalists would be killed by religion,” cartoonist Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau writes in the magazine’s editorial. He continues: “We saw France as an island of secularism, where it was possible to tell jokes, draw, laugh, without worrying about dogma or fanatics.”
Read more at Bustle.
The following story originally appeared on Link TV’s Global Post Blog in 2009 during my stint as the station’s series blogger.
I am remembering a talk I had with Danuta Pawlowska, the Polish grandmother of a good friend of mine, in her Warsaw apartment several years ago. A member of the Warsaw resistance during the Nazi occupation, Danuta was closely monitored after the communists took over in the mid-1940s.
She recalled a long gossip-filled phone conversation with a close friend. Two hours into the conversation, a booming male voice suddenly burst through the receiver. “Would you just shut up already?” the man groaned. “How much more of this must I listen to?!”
I had laughed at the time. For a young American with roots in Warsaw, the idea of a government agent listening to a banal chat with a friend was amusing – something fit for a dime store spy thriller.
This disconnect is also apparent in present-day Warsaw. In the city’s meticulously reconstructed Old Town, foreign tourists swarm on souvenir shops to purchase T-shirts and shot glasses, and bursts of bad American pop music filter out of the same fashion chain stores that line Paris’ Rue de Rennes or Copenhagen’s Strøget. The stylish, boisterous students crowding the bars and cafes have no memory of life in pre-1989 Warsaw.
Yet, if you venture outside of the city center, the medieval architecture gives way to monotonous tenements the color of diesel exhaust. Passing by some of these buildings at dusk is an unnerving, somewhat melancholy experience, and I’ll admit that I glanced over my shoulder more than once. For Danuta and millions of others, that reality was life.
I make a brief appearance on this week’s Al Jazeera English’s “Listening Post” program discussing female foreign correspondents and sexual abuse. It was 6am and I had just returned from Southern California, so I’m afraid my sleepiness shows through a bit.
My sleepy floating head aside, the program is worth a look for its coverage of Libya, the relationship between journalists and war, and the dangers facing female journalists in the field.
Al Jazeera English: Intervention, warmongering and the media
The sexual assault on foreign correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo last week underscores the dangers facing many women who report from the world’s hotspots.
Veteran conflict reporter Judith Matloff discusses the issue at length in a 2007 article in the Columbia Journalism Review. (pdf)
“Female reporters are targets in lawless places where guns are common and punishment rare,” writes Matloff, who experienced a close call herself on assignment in Angola.
“War zones in particular seem to invite unwanted advances, and sometimes the creeps can be the drivers, guards, and even the sources that one depends on to do the job.”
Most troubling, says Matloff, is the number of incidents that go unreported. Fearing the loss of a beat or a job, many reporters keep quiet about sexual abuse.
“The compulsion to be part of the macho club is so fierce that women often don’t tell their bosses. Groping hands and lewd come-ons are stoically accepted as part of the job, especially in places where western women are viewed as promiscuous.”