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

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Palestinian Greek Orthodox Christian girl dressed in Santa Claus stands outside the Saint Porfirios church in Gaza City on December 22, 2013  

Finished your wrapping? Then spare a thought for the needy this Christmas

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
Help for victims of domestic violence is in a state of crisis  

Controlling behaviour in relationships is now outlawed in the UK, and my story of abuse proves why it should be

Laura Lyons
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick