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Thursday, January 8, 2015

The biggest threat to French free speech isn’t terrorism. It’s the government

Within an hour of the massacre at the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, thousands of Parisians spontaneously gathered at the Place de la Republique. Rallying beneath the monumental statues representing Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, they chanted “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) and “Charlie! Liberty!” It was a rare moment of French unity that was touching and genuine.
Yet one could fairly ask what they were rallying around. The greatest threat to liberty in France has come not from the terrorists who committed such horrific acts this past week but from the French themselves, who have been leading the Western world in a crackdown on free speech.
Indeed, if the French want to memorialize those killed at Charlie Hebdo, they could start by rescinding their laws criminalizing speech that insults, defames or incites hatred, discrimination or violence on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, sex or sexual orientation. These laws have been used to harass the satirical newspaper and threaten its staff for years...

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