France is not a “champion of freedom of expression”: Amnesty

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ANKARA Amnesty International on Saturday accused the French government of not being the “champion of free speech it likes to think it is”, criticizing the government’s recent rhetoric as “shameful hypocrisy”.

“The French government’s rhetoric on freedom of expression is not enough to cover up its own shameless hypocrisy,” said Marco Pirolini, researcher at the rights group, adding that freedom of expression “means nothing if it does not applies to everyone ”.

He accused French President Emmanuel Macron and his government of doubling down on a “smear campaign” against French Muslims for the murder of Samuel Paty, a French teacher who was brutally murdered in mid-October.

« [They] launched their own attack on freedom of expression, “Pirolini said, citing recent incidents such as the several-hour interrogation by French police of four 10-year-old children suspected of” apologizing for terrorism “.

He also referred to a court ruling concerning two men for “contempt” after burning an effigy depicting Macron during a peaceful protest, as well as a bill under discussion in parliament that would criminalize the use of images. law enforcement officers on social networks.

“It is difficult to reconcile this with the vigorous defense by the French authorities of the right to portray the Prophet Muhammad in caricatures. ”

He pointed out that the freedom of expression and religion of Muslims generally received little attention in France under the guise of republican universalism, stressing that in the name of secularism, Muslims in France were prohibited from wearing religious symbols or to dress in schools and public sector jobs.

“France’s record in terms of freedom of expression in other areas is just as bleak. Thousands of people are sentenced each year for ‘contempt of public officials’, a loosely defined criminal offense that law enforcement and judicial authorities have enforced en masse to silence peaceful dissent, ”Pirolini added.

“In June this year, the European Court of Human Rights found that the convictions of 11 activists in France for campaigning to boycott Israeli products violated their freedom of expression,” he said. .

Pirolini criticized recent measures taken by authorities to dissolve organizations and close mosques on the basis of the “ambiguous concept of ‘radicalization’.” He also accused the government of confusing “radicalization” with the actions of devout Muslims.

“The government’s campaign for freedom of expression must not be used to cover up measures that expose people to human rights violations, including torture,” he said.

Last month, Macron described Islam as “a religion in crisis” and announced plans for tougher laws to fight “Islamist separatism” in France.

Tensions escalated further after the assassination and beheading of college professor Paty on October 16 in a Paris suburb in retaliation for showing his students blasphemous caricatures of the Muslim prophet Muhammad during a class on freedom of expression.

Insulting cartoons from the French weekly Charlie Hebdo have also been projected on buildings in some French cities.

Macron defended the cartoons, saying France “would not give up our cartoons”, sparking outrage in the Muslim world.
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