Newspapers in shock at Paris gun attacks

French police officers patrol on the Champs Elysees in Paris
Image caption French papers fear more attacks in the future

Newspapers in France are struggling to come to terms with Monday's attacks in Paris, in which an armed man shot a photographer in the offices of the Liberation daily and then fired shots outside the headquarters of the Societe Generale bank.

The papers refrain from speculating about motives, but several writers feel that attacks on the media target the values that lie at the heart of French democracy.

Some say that the policemen searching for the attacker have a formidable task on their hands.

But a senior editor at Liberation warns that responding to the attacks by introducing tighter security at media outlets would lead to less openness.

'Absolute horror'

"He pulled out his gun and shot twice," reads the headline taking up almost all of Liberation's front page.

Below, the paper reports that the photographer injured in the attack is still in intensive care.

In an editorial, Liberation's publisher, Nicolas Demorand, describes the attack as "unthinkable" and "an absolute horror", but argues that closing the paper's doors to readers would be detrimental.

"What is a newspaper? An irreplaceable player in democracy, a medium of debate and, sometimes, a means for the battle of ideas, a place to develop and disseminate information that aims to help people live their civic life," he says.

"Where democracy is born, the sublime tumult of the press is born in its wake. An attack on a newspaper is an attempt on the lives of men and women who are only doing their job. And an attack on an idea, a set of values that we call the Republic."

'Symbol of democracy'

"Media targeted by violence", reads a headline on the website of the weekly Le Point, which notes that attacks on the media have always had "symbolic significance".

Image caption Paris police have released CCTV images of the man they want to question

Writing in Le Monde, Marion Van Renterghem says that "the horror of this drama is mixed with unease: the shooter who had already pointed his gun in the premises of BFMTV a few days earlier is for the second time targeting a site of information and debate, a symbol of democracy. He is acting within a French context of racist insults and violence against institutions."

In a video clip posted on the website of Le Figaro under the title "Worst-case scenario", the paper's deputy editor-in-chief, Jean-Marc Leclerc, sums up the challenge facing the police trying to find a lone gunman in a metropolis.

"The police will have to come up with a strategy of encirclement and a follow-up, which is quite difficult.

"On the other hand, there's a philosophy in France; that we do not shoot at people on sight. This is not the New York police. The Paris police do not shoot at people the moment they see them armed."

Writing in L'Express, Matthieu Deprieck, suggests more attacks may be on the horizon.

"What we know less about is that all local authorities - police, prefectures, ministries - are similarly preparing for more isolated attacks, like those that took place in Paris. From these exercises, there are procedures emerging, and these are clearly known to all those involved."

'Life goes on'

But Le Monde notes that "after the shootings and shock at Liberation, life goes on".

"On Monday, a man burst into offices of Liberation and gravely wounded a photographer," the paper says. "But the paper continues to function and refuses to speculate on the attacker's motive."

And the Humanite website carries remarks by the director of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which has been targeted on several occasions in the past.

"We don't forget that, two years ago, when our offices were ravaged by arson, it was the team of Liberation that hosted us for two months. We know what it is like to work under police protection, as it is the grotesque situation we've been going through for the past two years".

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