Limits to the Freedom of the Press: The Case of Charlie Hebdo

, by Hervé Fuyet Haïti France

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.
William Shakespeare, Jaques, Act II, scene vii.

These days of 2015, merely tragedies! Hundred of thousands of Children dying of hunger, Wars, devastation and terrorist attacks in many countries,

In France, terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo, (a small, controversial satirical hebdo), a young police woman and a grocery store selling ethnic jewish food generated a lot of emotion and indignation in the population in France and even around the world. We have published here many articles covering the attacks and expressing our solidarity with all the victims.

These attacks generated also a renewed controversy on the desirable limits to the freedom of the press. The French socialist government and a number of democrats viewing France as the country of Human Rights ( rather than simply of the Declaration of Human Rights) considered its moral duty to defend the right of blasphemy as symbolic of Human rights and European civilization, against the "Barbarians".

Since it is precisely the blasphemous drawings of the Prophet Mohammed that generated the criminal assassination of Charlie Hebdo caricaturists, it seems relevant to raise questions.

Others on the Left such as Aimé Césaire, when he was a Communist deputy for Martinique in the French national Assembly saw things differently and did not perceive Europe as the center of universal civilization. Césaire wrote these lines back in 1950, but it may apply now also:

A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization.
A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken
A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization.

The fact is that the so-called European civilization – "Western" civilization - as it has
been shaped by two centuries of bourgeois rule, is incapable of solving the two major
problems to which its existence has given rise: the problem of the proletariat and the
colonial problem; that Europe is unable to justify itself either before the bar of "reason" or before the bar of "conscience"; and that, increasingly, it takes refuge in a hypocrisy which is all the more odious because it is less and less likely to deceive.
Europe is indefensible.
Apparently that is what the American strategists are whispering to each other.
That in itself is not serious.
What is serious is that "Europe" is morally, spiritually indefensible.
And today the indictment is brought against it not by the European masses alone,
but on a world scale, by tens and tens of millions of men who, from the depths of slavery, set themselves up as judges.
The colonialists may kill in Indochina, torture in Madagascar, imprison in Black
Africa, crackdown in the West Indies. Henceforth, the colonized know that they have an advantage over them. They know that their temporary, "masters" are lying.
Therefore, that their masters are weak.
And since I have been asked to speak about colonization and civilization, let us go
straight to the principal lie which is the source of all the others.
Colonization and civilization?
In dealing with this subject, the commonest curse is to be the dupe in good faith of a collective hypocrisy that cleverly misrepresents problems, the better to legitimize the hateful solutions provided for them.
In other words, the essential thing here is to see clearly, to think clearly - that is,
dangerously - and to answer clearly the innocent first question: what, fundamentally, is
colonization? To agree on what it is not: neither evangelization, nor a philanthropic
enterprise, nor a desire to push back the frontiers of ignorance, disease, and tyranny, nor a project undertaken for the greater glory of God, nor an attempt to extend the rule of law.
To admit once for all, without flinching at the consequences, that the decisive actors here are the adventurer and the pirate, the wholesale grocer and the ship owner, the gold digger and the merchant, appetite and force, and behind them, the baleful projected
shadow of a form of civilization which, at a certain point in its history, finds itself obliged, for internal reasons, to extend to a world scale the competition of its antagonistic economies.
Pursuing my analysis, I find that hypocrisy is of recent date; that neither Cortez
discovering Mexico from the top of the great teocalli, nor Pizzaro before Cuzco (much less Marco Polo before Cambaluc), claims that he is the harbinger of a superior order; that they kill; that they plunder; that they have helmets, lances, cupidities; that the slavering apologists came later; that the chief culprit in this domain is Christian pedantry, which laid down the dishonest equations Christianity=civilization, paganism=savagery, from which there could not but ensue abominable colonialist and racist consequences, whose victims were to be the Indians, the yellow peoples, and the Negroes.
That being settled, I admit that it is a good thing to place different civilizations in
contact with each other that it is an excellent thing to blend different worlds; that whatever its own particular genius may be, a civilization that withdraws into itself atrophies; that for civilizations, exchange is oxygen; that the great good fortune of Europe is to have been a crossroads, and that because it was the locus of all ideas, the receptacle of all philosophies, the meeting place of all sentiments, it was the best center for the redistribution of energy.
But then I ask the following question: has colonization really placed civilizations in
contact? Or, if you prefer, of all the ways of establishing contact, was it the best?
I answer no.
And I say that between colonization and civilization there is an infinite distance; that
out of all the colonial expeditions that have been undertaken, out of all the colonial
statutes that have been drawn up, out of all the memoranda that have been dispatched by all the ministries, there could not come a single human value.
First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize
him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; and we must show that each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a little girl is raped and in France they accept the fact, each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and "interrogated, all these patriots who have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been instilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely, the continent proceeds toward savagery.
And then one fine day the bourgeoisie is awakened by a terrific reverse shock: the
gestapos are busy, the prisons fill up, the torturers around the racks invent, refine,
People are surprised, they become indignant. They say: "How strange! But never
mind-it’s Nazism, it will. pass!" And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.

Yes, it would be worthwhile to study clinically, in detail, the steps taken by Hitler
and Hitlerism and to reveal to the very distinguished, very humanistic, very Christian
bourgeois of the twentieth century that without his being aware of it, he has a Hitler inside him, that Hitler inhabits him, that Hitler is his demon, that if he rails against him, he is being inconsistent and that, at bottom, what he cannot forgive Hitler for is not crime in itself, the crime against man, it is not the humiliation of man as such, it is the crime against the white man, the humiliation of the white man, and the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the coolies of India, and the blacks of Africa.
And that is the great thing I hold against pseudo-humanism: that for too long it has
diminished the rights of man, that its concept of those rights has been - and still is - narrow and fragmentary, incomplete and biased and, all things considered, sordidly racist.
I have talked a good deal about Hitler. Because he deserves it: he makes it
possible to see things on a large scale and to grasp the fact that capitalist society, at its present stage, is incapable of establishing a concept of the rights of all men, just as it has proved incapable of establishing a system of individual ethics. Whether one likes it or not, at the end of the blind alley that is Europe, I mean the Europe of Adenauer, Schuman, Bidault, and a few others, there is Hitler. At the end of capitalism, which is eager to outlive its day, there is Hitler. At the end of formal humanism and philosophic renunciation, there
is Hitler.

Discourse on Colonialism (extract), Translated by Joan Pinkham. This version was published by Monthly Review Press: New York and London, 1972.

Are we, today, confronting a modernized version of Césaire’s analysis or are we living in another world? It is not easy to answer that question!

One thing is clear, the crimes of nazism are almost universally condemned, while the crimes of colonialism are hidden behind various amnesty laws in Europe. We must now add the neocolonialist crimes of Europe in Irak, Lybia etc., and the neonazi crimes in Ukraine, etc. As long as such a situation persists, we do not have a healthy basis to put an end to the conflict between imperialist Europe and other parts of the world.

To go back even further in time, Lenin in 1905, in his article Socialism and Religion insisted on the obligation, for Communists not to offend the religious deep feeling of oppressed people.

But under no circumstances ought we to fall into the error of posing the religious question in an abstract, idealistic fashion, as an “intellectual” question unconnected with the class struggle, as is not infrequently done by the radical-democrats from among the bourgeoisie. It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression and coarsening of the worker masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods. It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.

Major communist parties such as the Communist Party of the Federation of Russia and the Communist Party of China analyzed the tragic events in France in the tradition of Lenin and Césaire.

Guenady Ziouganov wrote :

Europe is in shock over the terrorist attacks in Paris which claimed 17 lives. This is witnessed by the mass marches in the cities in France and other countries on the continent in which millions of people took part. The CPRF resolutely condemns the violence, especially when its victims are civilians, and expresses its condolences to the families and close ones of the victims.

At the same time it is incumbent upon us to see the deep roots of the current wave of bloody violence in France. To counter the growing influence of the USSR, the CIA began to use international terrorism back in the 1980s. At the time the extremists from all over the Middle East were assembled and armed in order to topple the government of Afghanistan. NATO interventions in Iraq and Libya and the murder of their leaders, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi, who actively opposed Islamic radicalism, provided fertile soil for the growth of terrorism. In Syria gangs of terrorists recruited from all over the world are openly acting as auxiliary forces to NATO in an attempt to remove Bashar Assad’s government from power. This policy led to the creation of the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). Meanwhile the gangrene of terrorism has grown and spilled over into Europe aggravating the chaos in international relations.

The People’s Daily published an article entitled Commentary: Bigotry, arrogance behind freedom of expression by ’headstrong’ weekly

BEIJING, Jan. 17 — Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine brutally attacked last week by Islamic extremists, once again published Wednesday its latest edition with a caricature of the Muslim prophet on its cover — a blasphemous move in the eyes of the Islamic world — which has triggered outcry and protests in many countries.
Although the international community has strongly condemned the perpetrators and shown universal sympathy to Charlie Hebdo as it lost a number of best-known cartoonists and other staff members in the terrorist attack, the sympathy does not mean a global recognition of the journal’s depiction of Prophet Mohammed in its cartoon.
As a matter of fact, it is a common belief of many that the magazine has blasphemed others’ religious belief and stepped over the boundaries of freedom of expression.
By resuming publication of satirical cartoons, Charlie Hebdo seems to indicate to others its insistence on the standards of freedom of expression it has upheld.
It has also appeared that the magazine has drawn strength from its unswerving faith supported by at least the European society if not the entire international community.
It it is true that Charlie Hebdo has gained sympathy from the international community after the terrorist attack, its move to publish a caricature of the Muslim prophet on its cover once again in a confrontational manner on Wednesday is probably in overdrawing of such sympathy and support.
This time, a weeping Mohammed appeared on the cover, holding up a sign reading "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie"), under the headline "All is forgiven."
This is another defiant move by the satirical magazine, and also another reflection of bigotry and arrogance of on the part of the Western culture.
The Western society should be fully aware that the so-called "freedom of expression" and "legal standards" of it are applicable only to its own countries, and are not necessary appropriate to other nations or regions.
In other words, isn’t it an infringement on others’ freedom if some people view their own standards as universal standards and even compel others to accept them?
Undeniably, the West’s confrontational and bigoted mindset that has resulted in their arbitrary political and military interference with others has connection with the rampant emergence and spread of terrorism across the world today.
If terrorism is a powder keg, the interventionism and cultural exclusivism practiced by the West, to some extent, is one of the detonators.
In face of the terror attacks in Paris, one of the views that prevails in Western media is that the freedom of expression should be defended at all cost. Yet, Someone in the West uphold standards for civilization that are recognized by themselves only in the style of religious zealots. Isn’t this another form of "extremist thinking"?
A civilized society should show inclusiveness, respect differences in culture and ideologies and knows how to mediate societal gaps. And any civilization that tries to deal with cultural differences with defiance and confrontation can not find peace and security it seeks in the first place.
The Western world should reflect on its own ideologies and approaches instead of persisting in executing its confrontational and exclusive approaches when communicating with other civilizations in a world that faces growing danger and threat from growing rampancy of terrorism.

For Samir Amin, a well known marxist thinker from Egypt, philosopher, economist, and director of the Third World Forum based in Dakar,

It is an odious act of terrorism by self-styled Islamists who have a very peculiar understanding of Islam and religion. But the responsibility for these attacks belongs to France and the United States. The Western powers continue to support Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the other Gulf states. They back all these countries that are giving massive support to terrorism. To be more precise, the Western powers consider the alliance with the Gulf states a foundation of neo-liberal policy. The second Western error is to have fought autocrats who tried to put the brake on political Islam, from Saddam Hussein to Muammar Gaddafi. For example, in Iraq Saddam Hussein was brutally deposed, though he could ensure coexistence between Shiites and Sunnis. And Gaddafi had clearly contained the drifts toward Islamism in Libya.

Samir Amin on the Charlie Hebdo Murders:
Imperialism and International Terrorism

Finally to conclude with France, the French Communist Party takes a slighly different approach, closer to the French Socialist government :

Charlie Hebdo: Determination to keep alive the values “LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY”

A call is launched to all the Republican forces to unite their forces in front of the Barbary that hit today the CHARLIE HEBDO’s team.

The barbaric bloodshed whose victims are the editors of the periodical CHARLIE HEBDO lets us horrified and painful and calls for a powerful answer on national level.

Pierre Laurent and the national leadership of the French Communist Party call for the national unity of all the republican forces against barbarity. When a Newspaper becomes such a target, when lives whose only passion was information and freedom of all expressions are massacred, every one of us is becoming this same target; the whole Republic is struck in its heart. The authors of this abject crime must be arrested and judged.

Our thoughts are with the victims, with their families, with their relatives, with their close friends. This morning the terrorists tried to shut the mouth of the World of caricaturists, humourists, of those who are in love with life. Our sorrow is even greater because of the brotherly relationships we had with the sketchers and cartoonists of CHARLIE HEBDO, in particular at the “Fête de l’Humanité”.

Today, the time is to gather so many forces and citizens as possible around the republican values. By millions, let us demonstrate in the whole country our determination to keep alive the values “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.

The Communist militants, the Communist and Republican elected persons, shall participate to any initiative taken during the next days which will allow the unity of the whole Nation, in a spirit of confidence in our people gathered around the main thing, without any distinction between philosophical and political thoughts or religious convictions.

We call to refuse any amalgam or stigmatisation, to firmly reject all the appeals to hatred and racism.

French CP, Charlie Hebdo: Determination to keep alive the values “LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY”

Clearly we need to question ourselves on our understanding of the crimes of nazism, neonazism, colonialism and neocolonialism.

Perhaps, at this stage of the tragedy, what is the most important of all is the immediate future, since many believe that we are on the verge of a major war with the 3 criminal attempts in Paris (7-8-9 January 2015) playing the role of the assassination of the Archiduke Ferninand in Sarajevo that led to the First World War.

The Cercle Frantz Fanon of Paris, sensitive to the pressing danger of war, entitled its call to the French government: YES to Justice No to War. I feel we should distribute its call to the French Government as widely as possible:

YES to Justice No to War

On Wednesday, January 14, 2015, the Frantz Fanon Circle (Paris) welcomed the popular republican march of January 11, 2015, as a response of the French people to the fascist and racist events of 7, 8 and 9 January. It calls for maintaining the momentum of the response by opposing those who are even now damaging places of worship, spreading Islamophobia, or glamorising crime, fanaticism, and antisemitism.

At the same time, the circle Frantz Fanon- Paris protests against irresponsible and thoughtless calls to "war", "war against terrorism", "war against jihadism." Only a few years ago, France and its president rose courageously to oppose the concept of "War on terror" and all that went with it : universal spying, Guantanamo and its odious scenes, external and arbitrary assaults, drones, global instability. And all this for what ? To lose universal sympathy which the United States had received in the aftermath of the September 11 atrocities. They eventually "kill bin Laden", but in the meantime, and in the course of half a dozen wars, they created 10 others like him. No war, and in any case no war without UN mandate, France had then said. It was true then, and is still true today.

France did not, and does not, need a state of war, it needs the rule of law, its rule of law. We have republican laws, and it is also for them that marched on 11 January. We have laws against murder, against criminal gangs, against racism. Let’s apply them ! The fanatical murderers are criminals, whom the police should apprehend, not an enemy army consisting of soldiers, fighters. A war requires an identified and legally declared enemy, subject to and enjoying the rights of war, including the Geneva Conventions and the status of prisoners of war. A war ends with negotiations between the parties to the war. That’s not what this is about. It’s a question of arresting and trying thugs, assassins, some self-made fanatics, the other handled and funded by foreign networks.

These thugs should be tried by the courts, and their networks must be identified (for many of these we know who they are) and be denounced from the UN podium. We name them ! The circle-Paris Frantz Fanon calls upon the French Government to maintain : Externally, the course set against the aggressor Bushism, imperial, colonial and destructive ; Internally, the spirit and letter of the laws of the Republic and the preambles of the Constitution (statements 1789, declaration 1946).

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