Sunday, March 11, 2007

France's 'Charlie Hebdo' and the fight for Freedom of the Press

On February 9, 2006, Charlie Hebdo, a french satirical (mostly left-wing) political weekly, had the guts to re-publish the Danish Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoons, along with several of their own, in response to the violent, over-reaction of the Islamic world to their initial publication, and the ensuing arguments about what might or might not constitute freedom of expression. Splashed on the front page was a cartoon of Mohammed with the caption "C'est dur d'être aimé par des cons" (It's hard to be loved by idiots), and entitled "Mahomet débordé par les intégristes" (Mohammed is overwhelmed by fundamentalists). And although the point of republishing the cartoons was to express solidarity with the ideals of 'freedom of speech', and to illustrate how Islam has been hijacked by extremists, the Muslim world, as a whole, chose to view it as a personal and religious affront.

The conservative Paris Grand Mosque and the Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF) have since sued Charlie Hebdo, claiming racism and "publicly abusing a group of people because of their religion.'' The trial commenced February, 2007 with the verdict, originally set for March 15, moved to March 22. Philippe Val, C-Hs editor and publisher, faces 6 months in jail and a fine of up to 28,500, if convicted. Val argues that "It is racist to imagine that they can't understand a joke."

The good news is that the case might actually be dismissed! Although the great President Jacques Chirac, condemned Charlie Hebdo for publishing the Moha-toons, many have rallied in favour of Val, including other journalists, politicians and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy (who would make a great next French Prez!). Even the State Prosecutor, Anne de Fontette, has called for dismissal, saying "It is not faith in Islam that was stigmatized by these caricatures. It is not an attack on religious convictions as such........ but the terrorists who pretend to be acting in (Islam's) name or in the name of the prophet.''

Looks like France might be doing something courageous, for a change. But we shall see, on March 22, if Freedom of Speech truly does prevail.

Vive la liberté de la presse!


Anonymous said...

It has been so long since I have seen anything from the French that looks like it takes guts or balls to do the right thing that it truly amazes me. Now if we could count on our own congress to stand up and do the right thing. Oh well, gives me something else to be angry about. Almost beats that third cup of coffee. MUD

Blazing Cat Fur said...

Ugh I am French Canadian by birth well 1/2 French, 1/2 Irish - very common mix where I was born and I don't trust the French! The right minded among them are few and far between they suffer a chauvinistic myopia borne of resentment and failure.

Incognito said...

Me too MUD... I hope our congress does stand up and do the right thing!

BCF, I was thinking more in terms of the France, French... you know the Vichy surrender thing, and the cowardly Chirac. But there are some very good French people, mostly not from Paris, who are as conservative as we are. I have a sweet friend in the middle of small-town France who loves Bush and hates Chirac. what can I say. They really aren't all bad.

Blazing Cat Fur said...

Yup I understood you but our French are little different in attitude from the authentic ones. Heck they would have stayed out of WW I & WW II if they could have - in each we had a conscription (draft) crisis.

Incognito said...

BCF.. have to be honest. Was in Montreal.. (loved it) but I understood about 1 out of every 6 or so french words..Quebecois french is very different from French from France. It is a beautiful language, you must admit.

Interesting comment about staying out of the wars.Guess there is some cosmic connection between France and the French Canadians. They still looking to secede?