French comedian to receive international free speech award
STYLO France, an International literary and human rights group announced today that it will award its 2015 Free Speech prize to controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala in recognition of his exercise of free speech in defiance of repressive laws forbidding it.
“Dieudonné lives in a society where almost unlimited offensive language and artistic expression may be used against some religious and ethnic groups but not others,” said STYLO France spokesperson Paul Larudee at the group’s headquarters in Berkeley, California. “In spite of the consequences, Dieudonné has criticized and ridiculed persons and subjects that are protected from free speech rights under French law. And he has paid dearly for his defiance of these prohibitions.”
Dieudonné has been arrested eight times for anti-Semitism – a criminal offense in France – and has been fined a total of €39,500 ($44,240). His crimes have included comparison of Israeli and Nazi military practices, criticism of the Zionist and Jewish lobbies in France, and inviting convicted “holocaust deniers” on his shows. (It is a crime in France to question or produce evidence contrary to the historical accuracy of standard holocaust accounts.)
Asked whether the STYLO France award is a reaction to the 5 May, 2015 PEN America award to the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, Mr. Larudee responded, “Most definitely. Charlie Hebdo never risked breaking French law for the sake of free speech, which is why they avoided criticism of protected groups in France. They paid a high price for insulting Islam but it was totally unexpected, since this is tolerated by the government, so it is hard to say that they showed courage in the face of repression. We think that the STYLO France award to Dieudonné corrects this omission and and also the omission in France of satirical treatment and criticism of protected subjects and classes of persons.”
The STYLO France award will be presented to Dieudonné at the Bal des Quenelles, 21 June, 2015, in Saint Lubin de la Haye.