France: Strict defamation laws limit free expression | Index on Censorship

19 August 2013

As the G20 nations prepare to meet in St Petersburg, Russia in early September 2013, Index on Censorship is exploring the nations’ records on free expression. Their article about France, headlined ‘France: Strict defamation and privacy laws limit free expression’ and published on 19 August 2013, contains the following paragraph about the artistic freedom of expression in the country:


Artistic Freedom

France has a vibrant art scene but one restricted in various ways by hate speech laws and by interference from public authorities.

Racial hatred and other discriminatory and violent language in artistic work with a potentially large audience is criminalised as a “public expression offence”. Many artists have been brought to Court for this offence which lies mainly in Article 24 of the 1881 Law on Press Freedom. [Loi du 29 juillet 1881 sur la liberté de la presse, Version consolidée au 23 décembre 2012 (Law of 29 July 1881 on Press Freedom)] This offence is particularly serious since it is punishable by five years’ imprisonment and a €45,000 fine. Government officials, civil society groups, and individuals have repeatedly sued artists for defamation and incitement to violence.

The Code of Intellectual Property protects artistic works whatever their content and merit, and protects their authors. However, artistic freedom of expression can be restricted by various authorities – Ministry of Culture, Superior Council of Audio-visual (Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel, CSA) – whose decisions may limit not only the dissemination of works, but also their production (TV, films).The CSA for example, whose members are political appointments, is regularly exposed to pressure from the public, elected officials, or political authorities to censor artistic works.

» This article was published on 19 August 2013 at

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