Hate Speech Case in France Raises Free Speech Issue Across Europe

June 27, 2005

Source: The New York Times


On June 27, 2005 The New York Times reported, "According to William Goldnadel, the 4 euros he won in a recent court case here is a windfall for Jews in France. Others only see it adding to a deficit of free speech in Europe. Three French intellectuals and the publisher of the nation's premier newspaper, LeMonde, were ordered by a French court in May to pay 1 euro each to Attorneys Without Borders, which Mr. Goldnadel leads, for defaming Jews in an op-ed article three years ago... Most European countries have laws restricting hate speech that, even if they predate the mid-20th century rise of Nazism, have been reinforced by the shared history of the Holocaust. Even Britain, which protects freedom of speech in a spirit closer to that of the United States, is considering a law against ''incitement of religious hatred'' to go with a law against incitement of racial hatred. Many free-speech cases have been set off since Sept. 11 by criticism of Islam amid concerns about Europe's growing conservative Muslim population. That does not mean that such laws curb speech uniformly across Europe. Enforcement varies according to the national mood, and penalties for infractions are usually low, leaving the field open to anyone willing to face the resulting opprobrium."