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In Solidarity with Charlie Hebdo - #DéfendonsLaLiberté

France: Open Letter to Citizens - Mobilise to defend freedom of expression

26 September

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A letter signed by practically all major newspapers and magazines in France published in the French Satirical Journal Charlie Hebdo. [Reproduced on sacw.net in Solidarity]

Appeared in Charlie Hebdo edition 1470 of 23 September 2020

Open letter to our fellow citizens: Let’s unite to defend freedom

Never before have the media, who often defend widely differing points of view and for whom manifestos are not the usual form of expression, jointly decided to address their audiences and their fellow citizens in such a solemn manner.

We are doing so now because it seems crucial to alert you to one of the most fundamental values of our democracy: your freedom of expression.

Today, in 2020, some of you receive death threats on the social media when you express certain opinions. Certain media are openly targeted by international terrorist organisations. States exercise pressure on French journalists “guilty” of having published critical articles.

The violence of words has gradually mutated into physical violence.

Over the last five years, men and women in our country have been assassinated by fanatics because of their origins or their opinions. Journalists and cartoonists have been executed to stop them ever writing and drawing freely again.

“No-one should be troubled for their opinions, even religious, provided that their manifestation does not trouble public order as established by the law” states Article 10 of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, now included in the French constitution. This article is immediately complemented by the following: “The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: any citizen may thus speak, write and print freely, except to answer for the abuse of this liberty in cases determined by the law.”

Nevertheless, the whole legal edifice, developed over more than two centuries to protect your freedom of expression is suffering its greatest attack since the second world war. And this time the attack is coming from new totalitarian ideologies, sometimes claiming to draw inspiration from religious writings.

Of course, we expect the public authorities to deploy the police resources necessary to ensure the defence of these freedoms and to firmly condemn states that violate treaties guaranteeing your rights. But we are worried that the natural fear of death is tightening its grip and inexorably stifling the last remaining free spirits.

What then will remain of the dreams of those who drafted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789? These freedoms seem so natural to us that we sometimes forget the privilege and the amenity that they represent for each and every one of us. They are like the air that we breathe, and that air is becoming rarefied. To be worthy of what our forebears obtained and bequeathed us, we must resolve not to concede another inch to these deadly ideologies.

Our country’s laws provide every one of you with a framework authorising you to speak, write and draw like few other places in the world. It is up to you, and you alone, to use it. Yes, you have the right to express your opinions and to criticise those of others, be they political, philosophical or religious, provided that you remain within the limits fixed by the law. Let us recall here, in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo which has paid for this freedom with its employees’ blood, that the crime of blasphemy does not exist in France. Some people are believers and may naturally be shocked by blasphemy. Nevertheless, they are unreservedly associating themselves with what we are doing. Because by defending the right to blaspheme, we are not defending blasphemy but freedom.

We need you. We need your mobilisation. We need the bulwark of your conscience. The enemies of freedom must understand that we stand together as their resolute adversaries, whatever our differences of opinion or belief. Private citizens, local elected members, political leaders, journalists, militants from every party and association, more than ever in these uncertain times we must unite our strength to drive out fear and ensure the triumph of our indestructible love of Freedom. •

#DéfendonsLaLiberté (Let’s defend freedom)

Signatories :

20 Minutes, Actu.fr, Alliance de la presse d’information générale, Alternatives Economiques, Arte France, BFMTV, Canal+, Causeur, CB News, Centre presse, Challenges, Charlie Hebdo, Cnews, Courrier International, Elle, Europe1, France Médias Monde, France Télévisions, Gala, GQ, Konbini News, L’Alsace, L’Angérien Libre, L’Avenir de l’Artois, L’Echo de l’Ouest, L’Echo de la Lys, L’Equipe, L’Essor Savoyard, L’Est-Eclair, L’Est républicain, L’Express, L’Hebdo de Charente-Maritime, L’Humanité, L’Humanité Dimanche, L’indicateur des Flandres, L’informateur Corse nouvelle, L’Obs, L’Opinion, L’Union, La Charente Libre, La Croix, La Dépêche du Midi, La Marseillaise, La Nouvelle République, La Renaissance du Loir-et-Cher, La Renaissance Lochoise, La Savoie, La Semaine dans le Boulonnais, La Tribune, La Tribune Républicaine, La Vie, La Vie Corrézienne, La Voix du Nord, Le Bien public, Le Canard Enchaîné, Le Courrier français, Le Courrier de Gironde, Le Courrier de Guadeloupe, Le Courrier de l’Ouest, Le Courrier Picard, Le Dauphiné libéré, Le Figaro, Le Figaro Magazine, Le HuffPost, Le Journal d’Ici, Le Journal des Flandres, Le Journal du Dimanche, Le Journal du Médoc, Le Journal de Montreuil, Le Journal de Saône-et-Loire, Le Maine Libre, Le Messager, Le Monde, Le Parisien / Aujourd’hui en France, Le Parisien Week-end, Le Pays Gessien, Le Pèlerin, Le Phare Dunkerquois, Le Point, Le Progrès, Le Républicain Lorrain, Le Réveil de Berck, Le Semeur hebdo, Le Télégramme, Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace, Les Echos, Les Echos du Touquet, Les Inrockuptibles, LCI, Libération, Libération Champagne, M6, Madame Figaro, Marianne, Marie Claire, Mediapart, Midi Libre, Monaco Matin, Nice Matin, Nord Eclair, Nord Littoral, NRJ Group, Ouest France, Paris Match, Paris Normandie, Play Bac Presse, Presse Océan, Radio Classique, Radio France, RMC, RTL, Society, Stratégies, Sud Ouest, Sud Radio, Syndicat des Editeurs de la Presse Magazine, TF1, Télérama, Valeurs actuelles, Vanity Fair, Var Matin, Vosges Matin.