I was on a blogger’s call with Hugh Hewitt re: Mitt Romney, but before I post on that, I have a follow-up on an old story, the Charlie-Hedbo cartoon trial (click on links for background information).
As I posted in February, the prosecutor did not press charges against the paper, and the judges’ veredict was due this week.
The verdict’s in: French Paper Cleared in Muhammad Drawings Case
The court ruled that Charlie-Hebdo showed no intention of insulting the Muslim community with the caricatures, several of which appeared first in a Danish paper and sparked angry protests across the Muslim world and in Europe.
The court acknowledged that the bomb-like turban could be taken as a general affront to Muslims. But it said that, given the context of the drawings’ publication, the paper showed no ”deliberate intention of directly and gratuitously offending the Muslim community.”
Reporters Without Borders hailed the acquittal as positive for French society.
Nidra Poller calls it “a terrible victory”, and I’m inclined to agree with her. As Mora mentioned in a conversation we had this afternoon, Honore Daumier practically invented the art of political cartooning. France has had a tradition of freedom of speech that fundamentally created that art.
That the judges had to justify the publication of a cartoon, clearly a freedom of speech issue, by instead expaining it as being newsworthy,
Jean-Claude Magendie, the presiding judge, ruled that two of the three cartoons in questions didn’t target all Muslims, just violent ones. The third, showing the prophet Muhammad with a bomb in place of a turban, could offend all Muslims, he said, though it was covered by freedom of speech laws because riots in some countries about the cartoons made its publication newsworthy.
tells me that freedom of speech, one of the basic freedoms, has become devalued currency in today’s France.
Update, Friday March 23
Phillipe Val, editor of Charlie-Hebdo writes in the WSJ, telling the whole story,
In February of last year, the director of the daily France Soir, Jacques Lefranc, decided to publish the cartoons in France. He was immediately fired. It was in protest against Mr. Lefranc’s firing that I in turn decided to publish the cartoons in Charlie Hebdo. Our front-page headline was “Mohammed Overwhelmed by Extremists,” and had a drawing by Cabu of the prophet, covering his eyes with his hands and crying, “It’s hard to be loved by idiots.” I invited my colleagues from the daily and weekly press to republish the Danish cartoons, too. Most of them published some of them; only L’Express did in full.
Before publication, I was pressured not to go ahead and summoned to the Hôtel Matignon to see the prime minister’s chief of staff; I refused to go. The next day, summary proceedings were initiated by the Grand Mosque of Paris and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France to stop this issue of Charlie Hebdo from hitting newsstands. The government encouraged them, but their suit was dismissed.
After the cartoons appeared, the Muslim groups attacked me by filing suit against me on racism charges. President Jacques Chirac, who campaigned for this just-completed trial, offered them the services of his own personal lawyer, Francis Szpiner.
Read it all.