Free speech denied in France, the home of Voltaire

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Anyone in France who denies that the Turks committed genocide against the Armenians in 1915 will be imprisoned for a year and/or fined 45 000 euros, under the provisions of a Bill adopted on 22 December 2011 by the French National Assembly (Palais Bourbon).

The Bill was adopted overwhelmingly by a show of hands. However, only around 50 of the 577 deputies took part in the vote. The bill has still to be approved by the upper house, the Senate (Palais du Luxembourg).

This measure has the support of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his rightwing government. It also has the support of the Socialist opposition led by François Hollande as well as that of the tiny Communist Party and its allies in the Parti de Gauche.

It is opposed by many eminent historians, including Pierre Nora, who argue that it is not for Parliaments to decide what people may or may not think about what happened in history.

It is also opposed by the former President of the Constitutional Council, Robert Badinter, a Socialist, who believes that the Bill is contrary to the French Constitution. He says that what happened in Armenia in 1915 has nothing to do with France.

Senator Jean-Pierre Chevènement of the Mouvement républicain et citoyen, holds that such laws represent an attack on freedom of expression.

Turkey takes the view that the killing of Armenians in 1915 did not constitute genocide.

The bill has been tabled just four months before the French presidential elections, which is expected to be a fight-out between Sarkozy and Hollande. Half a million people of Armenian stock – a significant electorate  – live in France.

In its edition of 23 December 2011, leading French centrist newspaper Le Monde criticised the bill on the grounds that it would damage Franco-Turkish relations without providing any demonstrable benefit to the Armenian community. That same day in fact, Turkey recalled its ambassador to France and suspended military cooperation with France. Commenting on the Bill, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that Sarkozy should focus instead on the slaughter of Algerian Muslims who sought independence from France in the middle of the last century.

Voltaire, a leading philosopher of the 18 C Enlightenment, is reported to have said of a rival philosopher, Helvétius, whose work De l’esprit was condemned by the Sorbonne and burned publicly in 1759: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it“.

The Armenian genocide Bill is not the first such attack on freed of speech in France. The 1990 loi Gayssot criminalises any questioning of the reality of crimes against humanity as  defined in the Statue of the Tribunal of Nuremberg. Thus, it effectively outlaws denial of the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews were slaughtered under the Third Reich.

In another instance of official intolerance, France recently banned Muslim women from wearing the Muslim hijab (veil) anywhere in public.

Comment by Antigone1984.  Here we have the French State deciding what clothes people are allowed to wear. Voltaire would have been turning in his grave!

Herewith a Wikipedia text on the loi Gayssot:

La loi Gayssot est la désignation courante soit de la loi française no 90-615 du 13 juillet 1990, « tendant à réprimer tout proposracisteantisémite ou xénophobe », soit de la partie de cette loi (son article 9) qui introduit un « article 24 bis » dans la loi sur la liberté de la presse. Cette loi résultait d’une proposition de loi présentée au Parlement par le député communiste Jean-Claude Gayssot.

L’article premier de cette loi rappelle que « toute discrimination fondée sur l’appartenance ou la non-appartenance à une ethnie, unenation, une race ou une religion est interdite ». Mais cette disposition ne fait que rappeler la loi du 1er juillet 1972 relative à la lutte contre le racisme1.

La loi Gayssot innove par son article 9, qui qualifie de délit la contestation de l’existence des crimes contre l’humanité, tels que définis dans le statut du Tribunal militaire international de Nuremberg, qui ont été commis soit par les membres d’une organisation déclarée criminelle en application de ce statut soit par une personne reconnue coupable de tels crimes. Cet article 9 introduit en effet dans la loi de 1881 sur la liberté de la presse un article 24 bis dont voici le premier alinéa :

« Seront punis des peines prévues par le sixième alinéa de l’article 24 ceux qui auront contesté, par un des moyens énoncés à l’article 23, l’existence d’un ou plusieurs crimes contre l’humanité tels qu’ils sont définis par l’article 6 du statut du tribunal militaire international annexé à l’accord de Londres du 8 août 1945 et qui ont été commis soit par les membres d’une organisation déclarée criminelle en application de l’article 9 dudit statut, soit par une personne reconnue coupable de tels crimes par une juridiction française ou internationale. »

This entry was posted in Algeria, Armenia, France, Israel, Turkey. Bookmark the permalink.

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