Right wing activists are being forced into hiding abroad as a result of France’s oppressive laws against free speech.
Le Monde reports that a number of right wingers have been pressured to flee France to avoid arrest for “hate” speech. The newspaper notes that many of these are administrators of websites in the “fachosphere”. ‘Facho’ is slang, in France, for ‘fascist’.
It describes the “fachosphere” as a “cloud of very active websites, blogs and forums which do their best to preach the ‘patriotic’ word on the web”. Le Monde says such websites “are hosted abroad, with the scarcely concealed objective of escaping French justice.”
France aggressively pursues cases of alleged “hate” speech. French icon Brigitte Bardot has been on trial five times for insulting Muslims and “inciting hatred”. On one of these occasions she was convicted just for “decrying the loss of French identity and tradition due to the ‘multiplication of mosques while our church bells fall silent for want of priests”.
Journalist Nicolas Henin, who was held hostage by ISIS in Syria from 2013 to 2014 “discovered this to his cost” according to Le Monde. In February Henin filed a complaint against a “foul article” about him on the secularist website Riposte laique.
Mr Henin said, of the article, “[The writer] is a former doctor, who highlights this fact to present a pseudo-diagnosis of me, and says I submit to Islam. It is an intolerable attack.”
The piece in question accused the former hostage of having Stockholm Syndrome, describing him as still ideologically under the control of his captors.
In a typical article, Mr Henin revealed that in Syria, the Western hostages beheaded last year by the militant group in Syria were his cellmates. Despite this the journalist argued that his kidnappers, including notorious ISIS executioner “Jihadi John” were just like “street kids drunk on power”.
The Frenchman, who admitted in his piece to keeping in touch with ISIS fighters on social media, shockingly depicted his captors as light-hearted jesters:
“All of those beheaded last year were my cellmates, and my jailers would play childish games with us – mental torture – saying one day that we would be released and then two weeks later observing blithely, “Tomorrow we will kill one of you.” The first couple of times we believed them but after that we came to realise that for the most part they were bullshitters having fun with us.
“They would play mock executions. Once they used chloroform with me. Another time it was a beheading scene. A bunch of French-speaking jihadis were shouting, ‘We’re going to cut your head off and put it on to your arse and upload it to YouTube.’ They had a sword from an antique shop.
“They were laughing and I played the game by screaming, but they just wanted fun. As soon as they left I turned to another of the French hostages and just laughed. It was so ridiculous”
Le Monde reports that at the time of filing his complaint, Henin and his lawyer struggled to find the name of Riposte laique’s manager — who is legally responsible under press regulations — and realised the “newspaper” was under the authority of Riposte laique Switzerland.
Only the name of a “site manager” was indicated, a Moroccan woman domiciled in Thailand. Le Monde remarks that Mr Henin’s quest for “justice” has been further complicated by the fact the woman had already moved from there by the time the newspaper reached to her for comment.
Fdesouche, thought to be the flagship site of the “fachosphere”, is also hosted abroad to avoid France’s oppressive “hate” speech laws. The website is hosted in Canada and for years now, French police have failed to locate its publisher, an Indian male.
Blogger Boris Le Lay was last year sentenced to six months in jail for saying he doesn’t believe there is such a thing as black Celts. The sentence was passed in his absence, as the blogger now lives in Japan. Mr Le Lay wrote a blog criticising the judgement. In it, he wrote that the fact the case’s judge was black and female contributed to the harshness of the sentence. For this piece, he received a further two years, suspended sentence prison term while still living in Japan.