The French press, the profit motive and the law

 

Share

Is freedom of expression an absolute right? I've been wrestling with this over the last few days, starting with the Muslim furore over the anti-Islamic video made in California, followed by the publication of the Duchess of Cambridge topless pictures by the French magazine Closer, which raised privacy issues, and now the cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohamed in a French satirical weekly.

 

It's pretty obvious that the French journalists were driven entirely by the profit motive in their rush to publish. Both Closer and Charlie Hebdo brought forward their publication date and sold out like hot cakes. Closer knew that they risked being fined for breaking France's strict privacy laws but went ahead in the knowledge that their profits would outweigh the risk. Fair enough. But I was troubled that neither publication took into account the bigger picture before hitting Send. The editor of Closer said there was absolutely no debate in their newsroom over the appropriateness of publishing the paparazzi pictures of the Duchess. What short memories they have - it was in Paris after all where Princess Diana, the mother of Prince William, met her death while her car was being chased by at least one photographer at high speed through a tunnel.

As for Charlie Hebdo, which has a long record of provocative editions, the editor was quoted as justifying the crude cartoons because they reflected a big news story  (the fallout from "The Innocence of Muslims"). The magazine's editor, known as Charb, has had police protection since an arson attack on Charlie Hebdo's offices last November.  Did he consider that more people might die as they poured fuel on the flames? As a precaution, the French government announced the closure of embassies and some schools in 20 countries around the Middle East and beyond. That's some bill that the French taxpayer will have to pick up.

In the last couple of days I've heard Salman Rushdie, who has first hand experience of the power of radical Islam, standing up for free speech with no taboos as he talks about his new memoir. I've also listened to those who say that freedom has its limits. While it's clear that there is unfortunate manipulation of the fanatical and violent reaction to the anti-Islamic video, I also think that in this globalised world we should think before we shoot (ourselves in the foot).

Luckily in our democracies there is legal recourse. The Royal family was right to challenge Closer in a French court which upheld their complaint. Charlie Hebdo is also being sued, for incitement to hatred. Let's just make sure that the two magazines are not held up as journalistic models. They are hypocrites, defending the principle of press freedom while raking in the money.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Secondary supply teachers required in Wisbech

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers ne...

PPA Cover Teachers Required in Doncaster

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Primary PPA Teachers required for wo...

Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Fifi Geldof (left) with her sister Pixie at an event in 2013  

Like Fifi Geldof, I know how important it is to speak about depression

Rachael Lloyd
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering