MOSCOW, January 17 (Sputnik), Ekaterina Blinova – The freedom of speech right has been seriously challenged in France in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack; while at the same time some French are being jailed for comments defending terrorism, the question remains open whether the fundamental right ought to be limited.
"We cannot march for freedom of expression and put people in prison just because they expressed themselves," said Basile Ader, a media rights lawyer, as quoted by Agence France Presse.
The media outlet refers to French comedian Dieudonne who is facing charges for defending terrorism after mixing the slogan "Je suis Charlie" and the terrorist name Amedi Coulibaly responsible for killing a policewoman and four Jews at a kosher store last week. "I feel like Charlie Coulibaly," the comic posted on his Facebook page.
Indeed, while in the US the First Amendment of the Constitution protects its citizens' right to free speech, France "has a complex web of laws and traditions," Agence France Presse admits.
While freedom of speech and expression in France is guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, France's 1881 freedom of the press law substantially restricts the fundamental right. In accordance with the legislation, those individuals who fuel "discrimination, hate or violence towards a person or a group of people due to their origin, belonging or non-belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race or a religion" or denies the Holocaust can be sentenced to a one-year prison term or be fined 45,000 Euros ($52,000). The law also states that those who defend terrorism can be imprisoned for five years.
The question remains open as to whether there should be limits to the freedom of speech and expression or the fundamental right should be protected unconditionally.
Commenting on the issue, Pope Francis slammed the Charlie Hebdo attackers, pointing out that "to kill in the name of God is an absurdity." At the same time, the pontiff underscored that there are limits to freedom of speech.
"You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others," the pope stated, as quoted by the Associated Press.
"If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Francis noted half-jokingly, "There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others. They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit," he warned.