France's Macron: I won't condemn cartoons of Prophet Mohammad

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference at the Pine Residence, the official residence of the French ambassador to Lebanon, in Beirut, Lebanon September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool

BEIRUT (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday it was not his place to pass judgment on the decision by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to re-publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, saying France has freedom of expression.

But Macron, speaking on a visit to Lebanon, said it was incumbent on French citizens to show civility and respect for each other, and avoid a “dialogue of hate.”

The magazine re-published the cartoons on the eve of a trial in Paris of alleged accomplices in a 2015 attack on the magazine’s offices by Islamist militant gunmen in which 12 people were killed.

When they were first published by Charlie Hebdo and other publications, the cartoons unleashed a wave of anger in the Muslim world. For Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.

Before the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices, militants online had warned the magazine would pay for publishing the cartoons.

“It’s never the place of a president of the Republic to pass judgment on the editorial choice of a journalist or newsroom, never. Because we have freedom of the press,” Macron said.

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Dan Grebler