French journalist is prosecuted under 19th century press law for questioning Islam during a radio debate

article-2451401-18a3790d00000578-550_306x330A French journalist, Ivan Rioufol (right)is facing a criminal trial under the country’s strict press laws for remarks made during a radio debate about the influence of Islam. Mr. Rioufol particularly objected to a CCIF poster campaign which showed pictures of predominantly bearded and veiled Muslims under the slogan ‘We are the Nation, too.’

UK Daily Mail  The journalist said that this was against the spirit of France’s inclusive, secular republic – something which CCIF objected to.

ccif_jeu_de_paumeMr Rioufol said that France’s 1881 Press Law was being used to ‘penalise criticism, intimidate journalists, censor the media’ and even ‘to reintroduce the offense of blasphemy’.

Ivan Rioufol, 61, believes the way he is being treated is an example of how writers are criminalised when the state is able to control the media.

He was summoned to court under strict press laws which date back to the 19th Century following a complaint from a pressure group called the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF).

ccif_french_family‘In seeking to undermine liberty of expression, a sacred principle of our civilisation, the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) takes the risk of appearing like a menace to democracy,’ said Mr Rioufol.

Mr Rioufol, who has written for Le Figaro newspaper for almost 28 years, made some allegedly defamatory remarks on November 15th 2012 during an RTL radio programme called ‘We Reshape the World.’

The 1881 law was nominally meant to guarantee the ‘freedom of the press’ but in fact criminalised a range of journalistic behaviour.  So called ‘press offenses’ ranged from insulting the President of France, to defaming private citizens through comment.

Mr Rioufol said about the case’s first hearing: ‘The judge reminded me that he himself had no opportunity to verify the existence of the alleged offense, the procedure – Press Law 1881 –  leading automatically to court, where the case will be considered on its merits.’

Mr Rioufol said the law was ‘easily manipulated’ by those who wanted to persecute journalists. A spokesman for CCIF said it had a duty to challenge ‘Islamophobia’ and the press laws were a logical way of challenging journalism it objected to.

‘Mr Rioufol will in court seek to prove that his words were true – one of the defences against defamation.’grypaios6