These are the biggest hypocrites celebrating free speech today in Paris

World leaders in Paris today.
World leaders in Paris today.
Image: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

World leaders are gathering in Paris to mark the murder of staff and police at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, as well as those killed in the hostage situation at a kosher supermarket.

France’s prime minister said the people would “cry out their love of liberty.” And they did—marchers in Paris chanted “liberté” in response to the murder of the cartoonists, who were well-known for their provocative cartoons lampooning everyone, regardless of taste or decency.

But as Daniel Wickham points out (as amplified by the journalist Glenn Greenwald), many of the 40 leaders attending the rally in Paris don’t have the best record of defending the principle of free speech so viciously attacked earlier this week:

Wickham, a student at the London School of Economics, lists 20 leaders attending on his Twitter feed and some of their crimes. Here, we’ve highlighted some of the worst offenders.

Foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, Egypt

Three al-Jazeera journalists—Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed—were jailed for seven years for spreading false news and supporting the now-banned group, the Muslim Brotherhood. The trio had denied the charges. On New Year’s Day, the country’s top court ordered a retrial.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Egypt as second in the world for the number of journalists arrested, including this photojournalist who describes his 16 months behind bars as an “endless nightmare.”

Prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey

Turkey held almost 50 journalists in jail two years ago. There are seven journalists in jail at the moment, mainly for producing propaganda for outlawed political parties.

Prime minister David Cameron, UK

After the Guardian published files leaked by Edward Snowden on spying and cyber-surveillance by the US National Security Agency and its British counterpart GCHQ, cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood told Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger: “We can do this nicely or we can go to law.” He added: “A lot of people in government think you should be closed down.” The government destroyed the hard drives of some of the files and later detained Greenwald’s partner at Heathrow and questioned him under the Terrorism Act.

King Abdullah, Jordan

Mudar Zahran, a Palestinian writer for The Jerusalem Post, was sentenced to as much as 15 years in jail with hard labor for writing about the king’s dependence on Israel for power. He told the the paper he was charged with “inciting hatred and attacking Jordan’s image and the image of its one nation.” He spoke from the UK, where he has been granted asylum.

Prime minister Enda Kenny, Ireland

Perhaps most surprising of all in these circumstances, Ireland has had “blasphemy” as a criminal offense on its books since 2009. Already one Muslim has threatened legal action against any Irish publication that reprints Charlie Hebdo’s front-page depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. Blasphemy is punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 ($29,500), but there are plans to hold a referendum to abolish it.

Blasphemy is defined by the Irish as “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion.” It doesn’t sound like the drafters of this law would have much time for the people at Charlie Hebdo.