Je suis Charlie: freedom of expression is the crux of the matter

Five years after the Islamist terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine has denounced the "new face of censorship" in its editorial. Influencers are forcing their view of political correctness on the public, writes the French cartoonist Riss, who survived the attack and is now publishing director of the magazine. Journalists discuss how tolerance and freedom of expression are faring in France.

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La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Harsh criticism is not censorship

Charlie Hebdo must allow others the same freedom of expression that it demands for itself, warns media expert Jean-Jacques Jespers in La Libre Belgique:

“Censorship, in the true sense of the term, can only be imposed by a public authority. It is the authoritarian and arbitrary act of prohibiting certain words, texts, or images. Here [in the case which Riss criticises] the issue is not censorship but debate, freedom of expression. ... If we want to preserve the freedom to say bad words and to speak badly about certain things or people, we must accept it when others disagree with us, insult us and swear at us.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Rifts becoming deeper and deeper

While outwardly France has withstood the series of Islamist-motivated attacks remarkably well in recent years, internally French society is increasingly divided, Sylvie Kauffmann writes in an editorial for Le Monde:

“Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and intolerance in general have been amplified by the infinite echo of social media. The freedom of expression that was so dear to the demonstrators [of the peace march] on 11 January 2015 is deteriorating: attitudes have become hardened and sensitivities are increasingly exacerbated, trapping individuals in a bubble along with their identities and beliefs.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Show no weakness against Islamists

France must become much tougher in the fight against Islamism, Le Figaro urges:

“Nothing has changed in the past five years. On the contrary! In the name of diversity, non-discrimination and human rights, France is looking on passively as its culture and its history receive blow after blow. The way people dress, communitarian demands, special authorisations - all of these are militant acts intended to call our laws into question. Does accepting them mean showing tolerance or weakness? … The Islamists wil stop at nothing. They continue the fight which - even without arms - is tantamount to a clash of civilizations. Was the famous 'Charlie spirit' which some thought had emerged after the January 2015 attacks merely an illusion?”

Le Soir (BE) /

Spirit of the peace march has disappeared

Le Soir also believes political reactions are inadequate:

“Measures to combat, among other communitarianisms, the Islamist hydra which [Macron] denounces are still pending. Fears of a lack of differentiation must not prevent us from taking action. Criticising radical Islam does not mean dishonouring Muslims. On the contrary. It is not forbidden to denounce both racism and fanatic manipulations, without leaving the monopoly on accusations of 'Islamophobia' to a collective close to the Muslim Brotherhood. That was the basic idea behind the 11 March 2015 peace march which united leaders around the world. Five years later, this spirit is almost nowhere to be seen.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Terror does not dictate the agenda

The Paris correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Nadja Pantel, is impressed by how France has dealt with the series of terrorist attacks since Charlie Hebdo:

“France is not united against terror, but continues to be a querulous, free nation. If there's anything to learned from the resilience of the French, then maybe this: they don't let terror dictate the agenda. Yes, parts of France are divided over the question of what place Islam has in society, just as the jihadists want it to be. But the big debates these days aren't about religious or national identity. From the yellow vests to the strike against the pension reform, France is at odds about how wealth can be distributed equally.”