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France’s TV regulator receives 400 complaints for airing anti-Muslim convention

25th Oct 2019
France’s TV regulator receives 400 complaints for airing anti-Muslim convention

(Photo: Thesupermat/WikiCommons)

Elham Asaad Buaras

The live broadcast of a far-right convention in France, which included a hate-filled anti-Muslim speech by a recently convicted TV personality, has resulted in hundreds of complaints to the country’s broadcast regulator as well as condemnation from media bodies and political leaders including the President and the Prime Minister.

The ‘Convention of The Right’ which aired on September 28 and has since been dubbed “an unprecedented show of hate” brought together an array of far-right speakers including Éric Zemmour whose conviction for incitement of religious hatred was upheld the previous fortnight.

For 32 uninterrupted minutes, the Jewish polemist, who has likened Islam to Nazism, delivered a speech titled ‘Outside The Walls’, were he resolutely positioned all of Europe’s problems on Islam and Muslims. “In France, as in all of Europe, all our problems are aggravated by immigration, school, housing, unemployment, social deficits, public order, prisons… and all our problems aggravated by immigration are aggravated by Islam,” said the author of the French Suicide.

He also warned of the “Islamisation of the street”, branded immigrants “colonisers” and quoted passages from the white nationalist and ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theorist Renaud Camus.

The Higher Audiovisual Council confirmed it had received nearly 400 complaints from viewers, and the Paris Prosecutor’s Office announced on October 1 it opened an investigation on whether or not Zemmour’s speech on immigration and Islam was inciting “discrimination, hatred or violence.”

The county’s Society of Journalists joined a chorus of voices condemning the decision by LCI channel to air the event organised by Marion Maréchal a former MP and granddaughter of former National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

LCI’s Society of Journalists condemned their bosses approach. ‘The SDJ is dissociating itself from the decision of our management to broadcast live and in full a speech of Eric Zemmour, definitively condemned for incitement to racial hatred on September 17,’ the group protested on Twitter.

Le Figaro was quick to distance itself from its columnist. In a statement, Alexis Brézet, Editor of the centre-right paper insisted Zemmour’s remarks do, “not reflect the line of the newspaper.” Brézet also said Zemmour’s speech was “deliberately provocative nature” and would shock several of its “readers or editorial journalists.”

According to PureMédias website, Brézet reprimanded Zemmour and reminded him of ‘the extent required in the exercise of his freedom of expression.’ Heads of Paris Première, which has been broadcasting his weekly evening talk show for eight years, also summoned him to remind him of the “conditions of his participation in the show Zemmour and Naulleau before the resumption of the new season.” said a spokesman for the channel.

Many critics have branded his employers’ reaction ‘fake outrage’ and ‘damage control.’ Blogger Muhammed Mehdi said that Zemmour had “history of provoking public hatred against the minorities, including telling television audiences that most traffickers are Black and Arab” calling for a war “in the name of a ‘stunned and prostrate’ French population on Chechens, Roma, Kosovars, Maghrebians, Africans”

Yet, despite this, says Mehdi, Zemmour continues to be provided with “a platform to provoke hate time and time again… The upper echelons of our media need to stop insulting our intelligence with their fake outrage over what we all heard on Saturday.”

That sentiment was shared by Le Figaro’s rival newspaper Le Monde which, in its editorial, called for the media to stop treating Zemmour as a rating hit and instead called for him ‘to be treated for what he is: a delinquent and an arsonist.’

TF1 Group, which owns the channel acknowledged an “error of judgment” in production in the way the event was aired. In a statement, the group conceded the uninterrupted “broadcast of the speech in its state was not the appropriate format.”

However, anti-hate groups say Zemmour’s speech – in which he repeated [Renaud Camus] theories which allegedly inspired the New Zealand terrorist attack on a mosque last March – was nothing short of a declaration of “civil war” against the country’s 5.7 million Muslims.

Camus claims that global elites are colluding to replace white Christian with non-white, Muslim populations across Europe, a theory which the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) say “fed the Christchurch [New Zealand] terrorist” when he gunned down worshippers in Al Noor Mosque.

CCIF branded the convention “an unprecedented show of hate” that amounted to a “declaration of civil war on Muslims” on live TV. “Éric Zemmour’s speech, when he was sentenced a few weeks ago for inciting hatred of Muslims, was relayed by LCI [the TV channel], who thus raised himself as the mouthpiece of an ideologue who wants to spark a civil war in our country,” said the group on its website.

Political outrage

Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, slammed the event branding the discourse “nauseating and deeply contrary to the idea that we have of France and the Republic.” He also said he was struck “by the violence and the tone of the remarks.”

President Emmanuel Macron’s spokeswoman, Sibeth Ndiaye, called Zemmour an “avatar of xenophobic thought.” Ndiaye, who is French Senegalese and was subject to ridicule from Zemmour during the conventions, called for “systematic rise” against hate speech.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner criticised him as a “discourse of hatred, rejection, withdrawal.” While Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, slammed the televising of the event. “Never deal with extremism, racism, anti-Semitism or the rejection of the other.”

Ten days before the convention, Zemmour lost his appeal against his conviction last year for provoking religious hatred against Muslims and for anti-immigrant remarks made three years ago. Zemmour was ordered to pay €3,000 in fines, €1,000 in legal costs and a symbolic euro to EuroPalestine NGO, which had initiated the prosecution for remarks he made in 2016 on the France 5 when he called on Muslims to be given “the choice between Islam and France.”

In a judgment delivered by the Court rejected his appeal against his conviction saying his comments “which designated all Muslims who were in France as invaders and required them to renounce their religion or leave the territory of the Republic” were aimed at Muslims as a whole and “contained an implicit exhortation to discrimination.”

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