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POLITICS: Is French freedom of expression damaged beyond repair?

French secularism has stooped to a new low.

A piece in the Nouvel Observateur from January 22nd 2015 details the punitive new laws to curb "the apology of terror" in France. The 'Loi Cazeneuve' measures allow local sherif-like lawmakers to hand out flash jail sentences of up to 5 years and 45,000 euro fines on-the-spot for any speech deemed to encourage or glorify terrorism, 'regardless of where or how'.

That's 5 years in jail and 45,000 euro fines for speech which is deemed offensive to the French government.

The sentence is detailed as follows:

Cinq ans de prison et 45 000 euros d’amende, quel que soit le mode de diffusion : un cri dans la rue, une affiche, un tag sur un mur, un tract, un livre, un tweet, un site internet, un journal papier, un dessin, un photomontage, etc.

"A five year prison sentence and 45,000 euro fine regardless of the mode of speech: shouting in the street, putting up a poster, graffitti, a flyer, a book, a tweet, a website, a printed newspaper, a drawing, a slide presentation etc"

This is plain insanity. French authorities are now frothing at the mouth, rabid with the arsenal of new powers they are allowing themselves in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and protests.

What is even more gut-wrenchingly galling in this blatant abuse of power is the quietude of the French and British press on the matter. How the hell can journalists not react to this in horror, derision and for the love of God, report it?

It is clear as day to anybody who bothers to look into this matter that the deep-seated divide in French society between the largely Muslim underclasses of Maghreb-descendants and the overwhelmingly secular, Christian and Jewish lawmakers and neo-aristocracy is what is really at play.

This is a straightforward of might equals right. Who defines what constitutes 'apology of terrorism'? Are Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed's head drawn as a bomb not every bit as much a breach of the peace as small children or drunk adults making threatening comments about terrorism in French streets?

I spoke out against the revolting shootings when they happened, and as a Humanist, I am disgusted by the punishment of speech with jail sentences, like many French lawmakers and human rights watch organisations.

Lucie Soulier's piece in Le Monde concludes on the horrible irony that a protest movement which drew millions of people across France into the streets in solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo victims is now being used in order to weaken and attack and erode the 1881 laws which enshrine the right to freedom of speech.

Humanists and secularists must oppose this blatant abuse of power. Where are you all?


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