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France targets groups, websites with expanded powers under anti-terror law -Breaking


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© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: Gerald Darmanin (French Interior Minister) speaks after the weekly cabinet discussions on a bill to combat what Macron calls Islamist separatism, at the Elysee Palace, Paris, France. December 9, 2020. REUT

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Layli Toudi

PARIS (Reuters – France’s government announced this week that it would shut down an activist-run media outlet as well as a Muslim site that was deemed to be against “national values”. This is the latest step in a string of actions lawyers and rights groups claim infringe upon democratic freedoms.

Following a violent protest against the extreme right in Nantes, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said he would shut down “Nantes Révoltée”, a local media platform, which had relayed information about the protest.

He had made plans to shut down the “La Voie Droite” website, which published Islamic content.

In order to take down organizations or groups, the government is increasingly using its power. Twelve such shut downs were reported in the two-year period, up from seven in 2016, according to French public records.

The Ministry of Interior notifies the party concerned before dissolving the association. It has fifteen days to respond with counter-arguments. After the publication of the decree, the organization can appeal to the Council of State. This is an administrative court.

To date, Nante Révoltée says it has not received any communication from the Ministry of Interior regarding its closure.

Seven of the seven organisations that were closed in January 2020 by decree are Muslim-related. This includes associations to run mosques as well humanitarian organizations and anti-Islamophobia groups. Three extremist groups were also closed.

Announcing the plan to close “Nantes Révoltée” to MPs in the French parliament on Tuesday, Darmanin described it as an “ultra-left” group that had repeatedly called for violence against the state and the police in the run-up to the weekend protest, at which three people were arrested, shop windows were broken and fights broke out.

Raphael Kempf, a lawyer for Nantes Révoltée, said that a website sharing information on an event could not be held responsible for what happens there.

Kempf says, “We’re seeing a government using the legal tools to attack voices criticising them.” Kempf also said that 2021 legislation has given government enhanced power that allows for inciting violence. The groups were previously required to be either armed or violence.

CRITICAL VOICES

In response to the violent attacks France has suffered in recent years, the 2021 legislation was created. It includes the 2020 beheading by Samuel Paty and 130 deaths in 2015 Paris attacks.

Lawyers and other campaign groups claim that authorities overreach to suppress criticism and take out anyone practicing a form not authorized by the government.

Darmanin, in a television interview on Sunday announced that the Islamic site “La Voie Droite”, would be shut down using 2021 legislation regarding “content inciting hatred or calling for jihad”.

La Voie Droite claimed that such content was not published, stating in a statement “whenever we encourage Muslims the texts to respect them, it is against any type of threat, legitimation or violence”.

Reuters reached out to the French Interior Ministry for clarification but they did not respond immediately.

The French government took another controversial step to increase censorship on internet content that is terrorist-related, or justifies violence. This was in accordance with a 2014 law. Officials claim that this is needed to stop violent attacks.

Noémie Levain, a lawyer with digital rights organisation La Quadrature du Net, said these powers were open to abuse.

She said that the decision-making process “is opaque”.[The police]They can label a Muslim group as dangerous even though it’s not violent. But they also have the power to do so with an activist who is calling for protest.”

Mike Robinson
Mike covers the financial, utilities and biotechnology sectors for Street Register. He has been writing about investment and personal finance topics for almost 12 years. Mike has an MBA in Finance from Wake Forest University.