The London Daily Mail
A French journalist is facing a criminal trial under the country's strict press laws for remarks made during a radio debate about the influence of Islam.
Ivan Rioufol, 61, believes the way he is being treated is an example of how writers are criminalized when the state is able to control the media.
He was summoned to court under strict press laws which date back to the 19th Century following a complaint from a pressure group called the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF).
"In seeking to undermine liberty of expression, a sacred principle of our civilization, the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) takes the risk of appearing like a menace to democracy," said Mr. Rioufol.
"This is essentially what I hope to be able to explain in court, because I will have to appear in a few months before the 17th Criminal Court in Paris."
Mr. Rioufol, who has written for Le Figaro newspaper for almost 28 years, made some allegedly defamatory remarks on November 15th 2012 during an RTL radio program called We Reshape the World.
Mr. Rioufol particularly objected to a CCIF poster campaign which showed pictures of predominantly bearded and veiled Muslims under the slogan "We are the Nation."
The journalist said that this was against the spirit of France's inclusive, secular republic – something which CCIF objected to.
Mr. Rioufol said that France's 1881 Press Law was being used to "penalize criticism, intimidate journalists, censor the media" and even "to reintroduce the offense of blasphemy."
The 1881 law was nominally meant to guarantee the "freedom of the press" but in fact criminalized a range of journalistic behavior.
So called "press offenses" ranged from insulting the President of France, to defaming private citizens through comment.
Mr. Rioufol said about the case's first hearing: "The judge reminded me that he himself had no opportunity to verify the existence of the alleged offense, the procedure - Press Law 1881 - leading automatically to court, where the case will be considered on its merits."
Mr. Rioufol said the law was "easily manipulated" by those who wanted to persecute journalists.
A spokesman for CCIF said it had a duty to challenge "Islamophobia" and the press laws were a logical way of challenging journalism it objected to.
"Mr. Rioufol will in court seek to prove that his words were true – one of the defenses against defamation."
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 10/09/2013
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