Third Party & Independents Archives

On Trial for Publishing the Danish Cartoons

Philippe Val, publisher of the French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo went on trial this week for publishing the infamous Danish Cartoons.

The charge is “publicly slandering a group of people because of their religion” (I have seen several variants of this, so I guess the translation is a bit open to interpretation.) The charge carries a possible six-month prison sentence and a fine of up to €26,800. Val was quoted as saying, "In a democracy, we're all shocked by what people say and do. We just have to learn to talk about it.”

The shame is that he even needed to say that. This situation puts the American Left in quite a quandary. Which value is more important – freedom of the press, or respect for the cultural and religious beliefs of those in third world countries? Both are championed, but when they come into conflict, the enlightened mind simply must side with personal liberty. So ask yourself, is it okay to print cartoons that criticize Islamists, or is it not?

But even if Americans answer that question correctly, it may not help Mr. Val in his trial over in Europe. After all, Europeans have criminal bans on swastikas, headscarves, and “hate speech” (potentially on line, as well). I have no faith that justice will prevail.

Of course, maybe I will be surprised. After all, Germany recently announced that it will not push for a EU-wide ban on swastikas and Holocaust denial. There may be some pockets of Europe where dialogue is preferred to prison when dealing with those with whom one disagrees. I sincerely hope Mr. Val is in one of those pockets.

While I am on the subject of Holocaust denial, let me share with you an amusing point by the Brussels Journal:

If Turkey joins the EU then we will have the comedy situation that denial of the Armenian Holocaust is a criminal offence in France, whilst mentioning it is a criminal offence in Turkey. The happy result of this could be that the entire population of France could be lifted and placed, Midnight Express like in Turkish prisons. Of course the entire population of Turkey could then find itself extradited to France and imprisoned there.

Europeans, too, find themselves in a quandry. If freedom of expression loses out in these cases, the negative impacts will reach far beyond Europe.

Posted by Wulf at February 7, 2007 10:29 PM
Comment #207125

Wulf, I couldn’t read your post without thinking of that line in Airplane where he says to the boy “Son have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”

As for the American Left, I don’t really see how this puts them in any quandry. They’re really not that interested in the freedom of expression to begin with, and have championed everything from speech codes and penalties for “hate speech” to restrictions on political campaigning here in America.

What it is though is yet another example of the collapse of Europe and their abject surrender to Islamicism. You’ll wait a VERY long time to see anybody in Europe jailed or fined for criticizing or attacking Christianity or “Zionism.” A good many of them could go to jail for what they say about George Bush’s religion.

The difference, of course, is that Christians and Jews don’t burn cars in the streets of Paris or threaten jihad, so they don’t incite the same kind of cowardice and appeasement.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at February 7, 2007 10:59 PM
Comment #207154

LO, have you even been to Europe and spent sufficient time here to get a sense of the place? How many Europeans do you know well, converse with, spend time with? Are you getting your off the wall ideas from journals or TV that reflect back your own mistaken paradigm? Because as a European who travels regularly across Europe with many contacts across the continent, and indeed many European immigrants in my own country, I don’t recognise the place you describe.

This guy hasn’t been convicted yet. Let’s wait and see what the outcome is before making assumptions eh?

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at February 8, 2007 3:42 AM
Comment #207156


You omit to report that the accusator here is not the government, but an islamic church group. And we don’t know the output yet.

Charlie Hebdo is a well-known satiric french newspaper. Well, it’s *the* satiric french newspaper. By definition, satire is provocative. The question here is does this specific satire (in particular the cover cartoon where Mohamed was saying, his eyes hidden by his hands: “It’s hard to be loved by morons”) was xenophobic.

I don’t think so. Would the text had said “only morons love me”, that will be a different story.

But let’s wait and see.

Regarding french ban on swastikas, AFAIK nobody go to jail. Instead, the very few cases were resolved by dialogue, indeed. Nobody goes to prison.
They just realized that not wearing swastikas inside public school is respecting people as much as wearing swastikas everywhere is respected by people.
It was not the big deal the anti-ban think it would be.

Holocaust denial is maybe a little bit tricky topic, because of the quite hypodermic sensitivity of this topic in European people mind. That’s our past somewhat collective fault to let it happened in the first place. Our worst shame.
I don’t think we’re ready yet to allow anyone to forget about it. And I’m not sure we should ever myself.

If Turkey joins the EU then we will have the comedy situation that denial of the Armenian Holocaust is a criminal offence in France

The Brussels Journal omit to say it’s also contrary to EU memberships rules to demy Armenian holocaust. While it’s a crime in France, but what matter more, it’s a EU membership blocking rule for Turkey currently.
Technically speaking, this “comedy” situation would not happen because the issue should be resolve *before* Turkey join the EU. If the EU fail to do it before, we’re really asking for future problems…

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at February 8, 2007 5:59 AM
Comment #207157

You omit to report that the accusator here is not the government, but an islamic church group.

I very much meant to include that. Thank you for pointing it out, Phillipe.

Posted by: Wulf at February 8, 2007 6:27 AM
Comment #207194

If these cartoons were ‘slandering’ Christians, Buddhist, Hindus, or any other religion other than Muslims, would Phillipe Val still be going on trial? Even if they onbected to them?
The problem is folks have forgotten how to laugh at themselves.
By the left are you referring to the true left or the fringe left? The true left isn’t in a quandry as they know that this trial is stupid. The fringe left might have a problem but not much of one as they don’t believe in free speech unless it agrees with them.

Posted by: Ron Brown at February 8, 2007 1:12 PM
Comment #207197

That should read: even though they objected to them? Didn’t proof read very good this time.

Posted by: Ron Brown at February 8, 2007 1:16 PM
Comment #207276
If these cartoons were ‘slandering’ Christians, Buddhist, Hindus, or any other religion other than Muslims, would Phillipe Val still be going on trial? Even if they onbected to them?

Whatever religious people group could sue a satiric newspaper, and in Charlie Hebdo case, they does sometimes. Most of them in the past were radical catholics, though. They always lost.
Which also means the trial costs were their.

People could sue a newspaper. Doesn’t means the freedom of speech is actually weaken in France. Challenged, like in many places worldwide after 9/11 in particular but, so far, still the winner.

Being sued is not enough to kill it. Being censured will.

In this case, tt was NOT censured. Far from it, as two french newspapers actually republish the cartoons in support to the Danish magazine. How many worldwide does the same? Dunno. Most probably a very few.

I will start to worry when such trials will win. Let’s wait and see for this one (until next month).

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at February 9, 2007 7:54 AM
Comment #207319

I don’t know of any newspapers here in the US that published the cartoons. The PC police over here would have crucified them. But the same PC police will laugh at cartoons poking fun of Christianity.
Like I’ve always said. Folks just need to learn how to laugh at themselves again.

Posted by: Ron Brown at February 9, 2007 12:28 PM
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