The Slatest

French Government: Protesters Don’t Understand Our Values (But We’ll Imprison People for Speech)

Somali protesters chant slogans holding placards reading “I am a Muslim, and I love my prophet,” on Jan. 17, 2015 in Mogadishu, to protest against French weekly Charlie Hebdo’s publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.

Photo by Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

They just don’t get it, French President François Hollande said on Saturday as protesters against Charlie Hebdo continued for a second day. In Niger, the protests turned deadly as five people were killed in the former French colony, when churches were burned and homes looted, reports Al Jazeera. In the Pakistani city of Karachi, an AFP photographer was one of four people wounded by gunshots, reports the New York Times. Protests were also held in other Pakistani cities, although they were more peaceful. There were also protests in Algeria, where several police officers were injured, Yemen, Mali, Senegal, Somalia, and Mauritania, among others, according to a list compiled by Voice of America.  

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Palestinians walk past the walls of Gaza City’s French Cultural Center, painted overnight with graffitti that reads, “You will go to hell, French journalists” or “Everything but the Prophet,” on Jan. 17, 2015.

Photo by Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

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The protests were carried out as the publication’s distributors said it was increasing the print run for the first issue of Charlie Hebdo since the attack at its offices to 7 million copies when it usually has a circulation of around 60,000. “They offended our Prophet Mohammad. That’s what we didn’t like,” a protester in Niger told Reuters in reference to the cover of the publication that includes a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad.

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A Yemeni protester holds a poster reading “Stop Charlie” during a demonstration outside the French embassy in the capital Sanaa, on Jan. 17, 2015.

Photo by Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

“We see that there are tensions, tensions abroad where populations do not understand this attachment to the freedom of expression because they have been deprived of it,” Hollande said on Saturday, according to Deutsche Welle. “But we have also supported these countries in the fight against terrorism, and so I would like to again express my solidarity with them. At the same time, however, France has its principles and it has its values—and freedom of expression is a notable one of these.”

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Hollande said this with a straight face at the same time as French authorities are investigating as many as 100 people for comments they made supporting, or sympathizing with, terrorism. One 28-year-old was sentenced to six months in prison for yelling support to the Charlie Hebdo attackers. Another man was sentenced to four years in prison after he drunkenly praised the attackers last week, recounts the New York Times. A well-known comedian was even arrested for a Facebook post he wrote about the Charlie Hebdo attack, as Slate’s Joshua Keating wrote about earlier this week. The differences in treatment between Charlie Hebdo and the comedian are “built into France’s complex cluster of laws regulating protected speech,” explained Alexander Stille in the New Yorker. “These laws are alternately very free and highly restrictive.”

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