The front page of the upcoming "survivors" edition of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo shows a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad holding up a "Je Suis Charlie" sign under the words: "All is forgiven".

The front page was released to media today ahead of the magazine's publication on Thursday NZ time, its first issue since an attack on the weekly's Paris offices last week left 12 people dead, including several cartoonists.

It also shows Muhammad with a tear in his eye.

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The special edition will have a print run of three million copies instead of the usual 60,000.

It will also be offered "in 16 languages" for readers around the world, one of its columnists, Patrick Pelloux, said today.

Charlie Hebdo's lawyer, Richard Malka, told French radio the upcoming publication would "obviously" lampoon Muhammad - among other figures - to show staff would "cede nothing" to extremists seeking to silence them.

"We are not giving an inch. The spirit of 'Je Suis Charlie' also implies a right to blaspheme," Mr Malka said.

The two gunmen who slaughtered 12 people in their attack on Charlie Hebdo's offices last Wednesday, including five of its top cartoonists and three other staff members, claimed as they left the scene that they had "avenged the Prophet Muhammad".

That was a reference to the fury expressed in some Muslim countries over Muhammad cartoons Charlie Hebdo had printed in the past.

Editor in chief Gerard Briard, right, and lawyer Richard Malka attend an editorial meeting last week. Photo / AP

The 44-year-old newspaper has always sought to break taboos with its provocative cartoons on all religions, current events and prominent personalities.

The surviving Charlie Hebdo staff have been working out of the offices of another French newspaper since Friday, with equipment loaned by other media organisations.


Their own blood-soaked offices remain sealed by police, the entrance covered with flowers, pencils and candles in tribute to the dead.

The new issue will also mock many of the politicians - in France, and around the world - who have championed the stricken magazine as a symbol of democracy and freedom.

In other words, the grieving Charlie Hebdo will remain as scurrilous, anti-religious, anarcho-leftist and offensive as ever - a perpetual student magazine, produced by people much too old to be students.

It will refuse to be turned into the sanctified Charlie of the "Je Suis Charlie" campaign which has encircled the globe in the past six days.

At the same time, the magazine will try to use its sudden fame to repair its perennially disastrous finances.

A scurrilous history

Charlie Hebdo

, founded in its current incarnation in 1970, has always been fiercely anti-religious, anti-establishment, anti-capitalist and anti-good taste.

Although usually described as "satirical", its humour ranges from gentle mockery to scurrilous aggression.

On several occasions in recent years, the magazine has published special editions lampooning radical Islam, including cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (who was usually shown to agree with the magazine about the barminess of his more radical followers).

A man holds a giant pencil aloft at a Charlie rally in Brussels. Photo / AP

Four of Charlie Hebdo's best-known cartoonists, six other employees or visitors and two policemen were killed when the Kouachi brothers, self-proclaimed "avengers of the Prophet", attacked the magazine's offices in Paris last Wednesday.

The "Je Suis Charlie" movement began when the slogan was posted on the magazine's own website a few hours after the massacre.

The emergence of global legions of self-proclaimed "Charlies" - including centre-right politicians in France and right-wing or repressive foreign leaders that the magazine detests - has angered some of Charlie Hebdo's surviving cartoonists.

Willem - real name Bernard Holtrop, a 73-year-old Dutch cartoonist long based in France - said at the weekend that he wanted to "throw up on all those who suddenly say that they are our friends".

He went on to reel off a list of unwanted "Charlies" ranging from the Queen to Vladimir Putin, the Pope and the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

'Charlie has always been anti-symbol'

A Charlie Hebdo columnist, Iegor Gran, went further. He said that he hated the idea of the magazine becoming a shorthand term for Western democratic values.

"Charlie has become a symbol," he said. "But Charlie has always been anti-symbol. It has always mocked people who exploited symbols."

Another cartoonist, Luz (Renald Luzier) said: "It is not easy to be supported by idiots such as Angela Merkel."

A man holds two pencils together to create a cross at a Charlie rally in Niteroi, Brazil. Photo / AP

The surviving members of the Charlie team were especially angry that politicians not usually known for their defence of "freedom" - from the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - joined the march "against hatred" in Paris on Sunday.

They considered making large, unflattering caricatures of visiting dignitaries that they disliked and carrying them on the march. Only pressure of time had prevented it, Luz said.

The scurrilous honour, and irreverent spirit, of Charlie Hebdo was saved by a pigeon. Just as President Francois Hollande came over to salute the magazine's survivors and the relatives of those who had died, a small, discreet, white bird dropping fell on the shoulder of his blue suit.

"It did us the world of good," said the cartoonist, Jul (Julien Berjeaut).

"We all paid homage to the President, saying 'He's unbeatable this Hollande. He even made us sick with laughter on a day like this'."

Free speech a wider issue

Charlie Hebdo's

attempt to refuse international martyrdom misses the point.

Many of the people at the Paris demonstration admitted they disliked and had never bought the magazine.

"It always seemed to me predictable and stuck somewhere in the 1960s or 1970s," said David, a lawyer.

Marchers at a Charlie rally in Trafalgar Square in London. Photo / AP

"It is sometimes funny but it often resorts to nastiness and scatology instead of wit."

Like many other people, however, David said he absolutely supported Charlie Hebdo's right to exist and provoke and push out boundaries as a kind of "advance guard" of the more mainstream press's freedoms.

Some Charlie Hebdo survivors accept this point. Not all are distressed by the fact that most of the world now claims, Spartacus-like, to be "Charlie".

Patrick Pelloux, a doctor who writes a weekly column for the magazine and was one of the first people to reach the scene of the massacre, said: "The warmth of all these people, coming together calmly to defend freedom of expression, must be the beginning of something new."

The unidentified wife of one of the dead cartoonists told Le Monde: "It was surreal to see all of these people supporting us. It was beautiful and strange. Who has managed to unite so many world leaders around a symbol? Only Nelson Mandela and Charlie."

That won't stop Charlie Hebdo biting the hands that defied it tomorrow.

Other developments today:
Charlie Hebdo marches: Israel's PM not invited - but shows up anyway
White House says it should have sent high-level official to Paris anti-terror march
Anti-Islam marches across Germany in wake of Charlie massacre

- AFP, Independent