Under Macron, France brings back preventive censorship after more than 140 years

By Olivier Bault
10 Min Read

The symposium that was to take place on Sunday aimed to honor the memory of Dominique Venner, a historian who took his life exactly 10 years ago in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris as a “sacrifice” to “break with the lethargy that is overwhelming us,” to “awaken slumbering consciences.”

“I rebel against fate. I protest against poisons of the soul and the desires of invasive individuals to destroy the anchors of our identity, including the family, the intimate basis of our multi-millennial civilization,” he said in a message read after his death.

In one of the six decisions taken by the police prefect in Paris last weekend to comply with the order of Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne’s government, an administrative court overturned the ban against a conference and a march organized by the royalist organization Action Française to commemorate Joan of Arc. It was thus allowed to proceed and did so without disrupting public order, just like in previous years.

The organizers of the Iliade Institute’s symposium, however, were informed so late – less than 24 hours before their planned event – that it was impossible to obtain an interim measure in their favor by a court. Hence, when the persons invited to the symposium turned out at the venue rented out by the Iliade Institute in Paris, a police cordon barred their entry.

Laurent Nuñez, the police prefect of Paris, motivated the ban by stating in his decision that: “There is a serious risk that, on the occasion of this tribute, statements inciting hatred and discrimination against a group of people because of their origin or their membership or non-membership of an ethnic group, nation or religion will be made (…) of such a nature as to call into question national cohesion and the principles enshrined in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.”

This is exactly what preventive censorship is about: Nothing has yet been done or said by the Iliade Institute or any participant to the banned symposium, but this might happen, so it should not take place at all.

This type of censorship was previously eliminated in France with the 1881 law on freedom of the press and up to now it was only re-established in times of war.

However, in 2014 the president of the Conseil d’Etat, France’s top administrative court which is closely linked to the executive branch, as its judges are often rewarded for their services with top posts in ministries, created precedence by validating a ban against a show by Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, a French comic owing his African name to his father from Cameroon, who had been previously convicted several times of inciting racial hatred because of his anti-Zionist jokes, which were said to be anti-Semitic.

But the May 9 decision by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin goes even further because it targets organizations that have not necessarily been convicted in the past but belong to the “far right” or “ultra-right” in the eyes of French authorities.

Darmanin made his decision after a march by some 500 young people dressed in black with Celtic crosses, often described as a neo-fascist symbol in France, took place on May 6 as it does every year – always legally and peacefully – to commemorate the death in 1994 of a young far-right activist who was fleeing the police during a banned protest. However, organizations like the Royalist Action Française or the identitarian Institut Iliade have no links with those marching on May 6.

Even a very politically correct commentator like Jean-Yves Camus, who is often invited by the overwhelmingly left-leaning French mainstream media as an expert on the far right, expressed dismay at the Paris police prefect’s decision concerning the Iliade Institute: “There was no real risk, if any, of things getting out of hand,” he said, as “the Iliad’s conferences are filmed and posted on their website fairly quickly.”

About the risk of racist remarks being heard at the Sunday symposium, Camus said that one could assume there is such a risk only “if talking about the Great Replacement is racist.”

It was in fact a point made in the motives given in writing by the police prefect of Paris for his decision to ban the event: “This meeting is not a simple tribute event but rather ‘a celebration to continue the actions against the acceleration of the great Afro-Maghrebi replacement.'” The police prefect used quotation marks in this sentence as he attributed those words about “the great Afro-Maghrebi replacement” to the Iliade Institute, although its director, Jean-Yves Le Gallou, denied at a press conference those words came from his organization.

The Iliade Institute also contested the assertion by the authorities that the Sunday symposium was a public event, as it was to be held in a privately leased venue for invited participants only.

It looks as if the French authorities wanted to ban any discussion about the ongoing population replacement linked to ever-greater mass immigration, both legal and illegal, which a large majority of French citizens see as a cause for worry.

Le Gallou, a former high-ranking civil servant, says this reflects a much wider political tendency: “The government is weakened by its policies that go contrary to the aspirations of the French, in particular on two major subjects: the massive immigration being distributed, little by little, in rural France… and the limitation of private property in relation to the development of wind power.” So the political leaders have only two solutions left, Le Gallou thinks: “massive propaganda and censorship. There are two forms of censorship, which are the direct censorship we have experienced and censorship by intimidation. This is what I call the ‘totalitarian pincer movement.'”

The return of preventive censorship targeted at those who oppose mass immigration or defend conservative, patriotic values comes after President Emmanuel Macron acted through his Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin to ban the non-violent, law-abiding youth organization Generation Identity in 2021 for its peaceful protest actions against the lack of controls by authorities to stop the influx of illegal immigrants at France’s borders with Italy and Spain.

The police prefect’s decision to ban the Iliade Institute’s symposium was preceded by an article published on the left-wing website Médiapart. It was written with information on the late historian Dominique Venner that could only have been leaked to the author by the authorities, so it seems that this publication was part of the authorities’ plot to ban the event.

The article was published on Friday at 5 p.m. Only a few hours later, the police prefect decided to ban the event that was planned for Sunday at 3 p.m., but apparently his services waited until Saturday afternoon to inform the organizers about his decision so that they could not have the ban overturned in time by a judge.

In the 2017 presidential campaign, which brought Emmanuel Macron to power, Médiapart was one of the two left-wing media portals that regularly received documents illegally leaked by the police and judicial authorities in the case mounted against center-right candidate François Fillon to derail his campaign and make room for the heir of Socialist President François Hollande, i.e., his former special counselor for Europe and former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron.

So it appears the same media outlet is still being used by the executive power to attack its opponents in a very unconstitutional way, and one may wonder in this situation if France is still a full-fledged democracy.

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