Today’s publication by weekly satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo of cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed are not hate speech and the publishers should be protected from acts of violence, says ARTICLE 19.
“Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed may be provocative, but they can not be regarded as hate speech or incitement to violence, and cannot legally be censored or banned. All calls to ban them should be firmly resisted,” said ARTICLE 19.
“The cartoons criticise a religious idea, they do not call on people to carry out acts of hatred, discrimination or violence. They may be considered blasphemous, but banning speech based on criticism of ideas is incompatible with freedom of expression, even if they are firmly held religious ones,” added ARTICLE 19.
“The cartoons are also not incitement – they surely aim to provoke a response and a heated debate, but that is not the same as calling on people to conduct violent acts. The person responsible for incitement in that case is the person who decides that they are going to react by urging violence. That person is acting illegally.”
“The French government has a positive obligation to both stop violent attacks after the publication of the cartoons and also to facilitate peaceful protest. Today’s statement by French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, that the government would preemptively ban protests this weekend, undermines the right to peaceful assembly.”
Publication of today’s issue immediately trended on Twitter globally and Charlie Hebdo’s website has came under a sustained denial of service attack, with claims that the attack originated from Pakistan.
Charlie Hebdo is a weekly satirical magazine and has a left wing and anarchistic editorial line. It is renowned for its provocative style, aimed at prompting debate about issues, and often critiques political and religious leaders globally.
In 2011, Charlie Hebdo’s offices were firebombed after publishing an edition stating that it had been guest-edited by the Prophet Mohammed.