France court backs ban on comedy show performance

[JURIST] A French administrative appeals court ruled [text, PDF, in French] on Thursday, upholding a ban on performance by French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala that was deemed anti-semitic. Dieudonne was appealing the prohibition order issued by courts in Nantes and eight other cities. The court refused to lift the prohibition order after it had originally been lifted [Guardian report] just hours before the state council decision. In a statement of the decision, the State Council noted the ruling was:

Based on the risks posed to the projected performance of public order and breach of the principles in respect of which it is for the authorities of the State to ensure the prefect of the Loire Atlantic had not worn in the exercise of its administrative police powers, a serious and manifestly unlawful interference with a fundamental freedom.
Supporters of Dieudonne claim that the performance is an exercise of free speech and expression and should be allowed to continue. Noting specifically that the act is meant only to be anti-Zionist and anti-establishment. However, those opposing the performance, including President Francois Hollande who has been vocal about his opposition [France24 report], claim that the performance is simply "hate speech." A major concern of the performance surrounds the incorporation of "reverse Nazi salute" [France24 report] that has become increasingly controversial.

The anti-semitism and the freedom of expression in relation to the Holocaust continue to be controversial topics internationally. France has dealt with this issue over internet speech, which has generated much discussion [JURIST op-ed]. In November 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] upheld an injunction preventing the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) [advocacy website] from using Holocaust [USHMM backgrounder] images in an animal rights poster campaign. A Canadian report in February 2010 found [JURIST report] that anti-semitism was rising in the population. That April, a German court convicted [JURIST report] a UK bishop for denying the Holocaust. Holocaust denial constitutes a crime under Section 130 (3) [text] of the German federal criminal code. As legislation is passed worldwide banning the denial of genocide, government's are increasingly being called to balance freedom of expression and human rights [JURIST op-ed].

 

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