Why we unite against anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné - but don't want to ban him

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The French interior minister Manuel Valls has sent out tough new instructions to regional prefects encouraging them to ban shows in the imminent nation-wide tour by controversial comedian Dieudonné who stands accused of virulent anti-Semitism. The French president François Hollande has joined the debate, urging the prefects to be 'vigilant and inflexible' in the way they treat the comic. Some have now banned shows in their areas. Mediapart has been warning of Dieudonné's obsessive anti-Semitism for five years. But, as editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel here argues, banning the comedian's shows runs the risks of the socialist government falling into the age-old trap of democracies who undermine their own fundamental freedoms in the name of law and order. This politics of fear, he says, which uses the threat of chaos to undermine democracy, belongs to governments of the Right.

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A crime is imminent and we will not be accomplices to it. Yes a crime, in other words an attack on freedom. In a republic, at least in a genuinely democratic republic, freedom of expression is a fundamental right, just like the freedom of information. This means that one cannot censor one or other of these essential freedoms in advance. One has the right to hold people to account for what they say, for their opinions or their information. To pursue them in law, and to have them convicted in a court. But only after the event, without undermining the fundamental rights that are the strength and not the weakness of democracies: the right to speak and the right to know.