French Government In No Mood to Grant “Free Speech” right – France blocking Websites that propagate views the government doesn’t like.
In what can be termed as an aftermath of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine, the country that was so far popularly known as the guardian of “free speech” right is now aiming to restrain it at every opportunity. The web turns out to be its number one target in this regard.
Reportedly, the Interior Ministry of France has ordered blocking of five websites in France without any legal process or court judgment.
Now anyone who visits these blocked websites is instantly redirected to a haunting government webpage that states:
“You are being redirected to this official website since your computer was about to connect with a page that provokes terrorist acts or condones terrorism publicly.”
— David Thomson (@_DavidThomson) March 15, 2015
Evidently, France is only censoring websites that propagate messages the government do not agree with. Unsurprisingly, the first in the list was the propagation of pro-Islam sentiments and a site named “islamic-news.info,” was blocked.
According to this website’s owner, he was not contacted for removing the material unwanted by the government. While the government is purporting the site’s material as supporting terrorism, the owner claims that there is no link between terrorism and his website’s content.
He wrote a public statement that was posted on a French news website “Numerama,” in which he clarified that he is on a one-man operation and posting content on a 50euro per month hosting plan.
Moreover, he claimed that he neither supports ISIS nor Al Qaeda but usually his website posts content against the present Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad. He also noted that he particularly avoid content that may in any way be linked to supporting terrorist organizations and even denounced a Syrian fighter who favoured the attacks on Charlie Hebdo claiming that these sort of comments will damage Islam’s image in Europe.
However, regardless of all this the French government declared his website as supporting terrorist organizations and it was taken down claiming that the agenda of this site was to convince people for joining ISIS.
According to Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve:
“I do not want to see sites that could lead people to take up arms on the Internet. I make a distinction between freedom of expression and the spread of messages that serve to glorify terrorism. These hate messages are a crime.”
Seems like France’s reputation of ensuring and securing Free Speech right was all talks and no substance.
Glenn Greenwald from The Intercepts pointed out that blatant government censorship is even more damaging than the terrorist attacks. He says:
“In sum, far more damage has been inflicted historically by efforts to censor and criminalize political ideas than by the kind of “terrorism” these governments are invoking to justify these censorship powers.”