France has cracked down on “hate speech” via Facebook and other platforms, arresting 54 individuals following terrorist attacks in Paris and a massive march upholding the values of free speech.
The arrests came just days after France’s president, François Hollande, characterized the attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo as “an attack on free speech.” But while Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists were killed for offending religious, racial and social sensibilities, the French government remains cautious about provocative public statements.
The French government’s quick move to detain those “defending or glorifying terrorism” contrasts sharply with its rhetoric from just days before. Soon after last week’s attacks, a vigorous debate emerged about incendiary speech, during which many noted that Charlie Hebdo resisted frequent requests by the government to censor its contents.
As The Associated Press noted, “none of the 54 people mentioned Wednesday have been linked to the attacks.” One of them was rabble-rousing comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, detained over a Facebook post in which he called himself “Charlie Coulibaly” — mixing the “I am Charlie” slogan with the name of last week’s grocery store terrorist Amedy Coulibaly. He posted the remark after attending Sunday’s march condemning extremism. (RELATED: Terror Widow Flees To Syria As New Paris Jihadi Facts Emerge)
Al-Qaida also accused the French government of hypocrisy in the exercise of “free speech,” in a video statement claiming responsibility for the Kouachi brothers’ attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices. (RELATED: Jihadi Statements on Paris Attacks Highlight Rivalry)
The comedian, known professionally simply as Dieudonné, has previously landed in hot water for anti-Semitic remarks, and government officials have condemned a popular gesture associated with his act for its mimicry of the Nazi salute.
France’s Jewish population takes threats very seriously. After a kosher grocery became the target of Coulibaly’s jihadi siege last week, armed policemen were sent to protect Jewish schools and neighborhoods. The community has already been dealing with an atmosphere of hostility; last year, France topped the list of countries whose Jews moved to Israel. (RELATED: Jews Leaving Europe For Israel In Record Numbers)
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