A Free Speech Victory, I Guess

A sequel to the Danish cartoon controversy: a satirical newspaper in France has been cleared by a court there of “publicly abusing a group of people because of their religion.” The newspaper, Charlie-Hebdo, published two of the Danish cartoons, including the one of Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban, and added an additional original caricature. The action against the paper and its editor–who could have received a six-month jail sentence–was brought by two Muslim groups.
In American terms, this isn’t much of a victory for free speech. I’m not sure that a lot of French newspapers will be interested in criticizing or satirizing Islam if the reward is the expense of defending a criminal or quasi-criminal prosecution, coupled with the risk of going to jail if the case goes the wrong way. But Europe does not, in general, extend the same protection to speech that we do.
In this case, the court “ruled that Charlie-Hebdo showed no intention of insulting the Muslim community with the caricatures,” and, based on the facts as related by the Associated Press, that appears to be true. So the risk of jail time is still there for anyone who is deemed to have intended an insult.
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