It may sound like an ironic joke, but it isn’t. Less than a week after the massive rallies in defense of “free expression,” following the murders of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, French authorities have jailed a youth for irony.
The arrest is part of a harsh crackdown on free speech in the country that has prompted criticism from national and international human rights organizations.
A 16-year-old high school student was taken into police custody on Thursday and indicted for “defending terrorism,” national broadcaster France 3 reports.
His alleged crime? He posted on Facebook a cartoon “representing a person holding the magazine Charlie Hebdo, being hit by bullets, and accompanied by an ‘ironic’ comment,” France 3 states.
The teen lives at home with his parents, has no prior judicial record and, according to prosecutor Yvon Ollivier quoted by French media, he does not have a “profile suggesting an evolution toward jihadism.”
The boy told prosecutors that he posted the cartoon because he thought it was “funny.”
The media reports do not include the drawing – presumably that could put journalists afoul of the law. So we do not know for sure what the youth is accused of sharing.
An actual Charlie Hebdo from July 2013 caused outrage for mocking Egyptian protestors killed after the military coup. The text says “The Quran is shit. It doesn’t stop bullets.”
But the cartoon at the top of this page fits the description precisely. It was widely shared on social media, and published on 7 January on the website of the controversial French comedian Dieudonné. It is a mock Charlie Hebdo cover by the cartoonist Dedko.
The text says “Charlie Hebdo is shit. It does not stop bullets.” It appears quite heartless and cruel, but look at the copy of Charlie Hebdo that the person in the cartoon is holding.
It represents a real Charlie Hebdo cover that was published in July 2013, days after the military coup in Egypt. It caused outrage at the time because of its cruelty and insensitivity.
It shows an Egyptian protestor being shot through a copy of the Quran he is holding. The text says, “The Quran is shit, it doesn’t stop bullets.”
Assuming that the mock Charlie Hebdo cover is the one shared by the youth on Facebook, this incident sums up the sheer hypocrisy of France’s current national mood.
Anything mocking and denigrating Islam and Muslims is venerated as courageous free speech, while anything mocking those who engage in such denigration – even using precisely the same techniques – can get you locked up.