Why Was The March For Free Speech In Paris A Big Display Of Hypocrisy?

SAYS writer Sadho calls out the biggest hypocrites who marched for "free speech" in Paris and their so-called record of defending the principle of free speech in their own countries.

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On 11 January 2015, some 3.7 million people joined some 40 Presidents and Prime Ministers in the unity march in France in what the New York Times has dubbed "the most striking show of solidarity in the West against the threat of Islamic extremism"

Arm in arm, world leaders, left to right: Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Union President Donald Tusk, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Jordan's Queen Rania, Jordan's King Abdullah II, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and other guests.

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Record crowds were seen in Paris today as an estimated two million people took to the streets in protest against the massacres.

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They were responding to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris

French President Francois Hollande is surrounded by leaders including Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (left), Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (fourth right), Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (third right) and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (right).

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As the New York Times described:

"Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists and people of all races, ages and political stripes swarmed central Paris beneath a bright blue sky, calling for peace and an end to violent extremism."

Before we explain why the march on Sunday was the biggest display of hypocrisy, just to give you a head start, as these wide shots reveal, the world leaders were NOT really part of the march at all. But conducted a mere photo-op on empty, guarded street.

After the march for unity in Paris, Khairy Jamaluddin, Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister, who wasn't at the march, tweeted:

While some disagreed, some agreed, many were left confused. Khairy was in fact pointing towards several of those oligarchical leaders who marched for free speech while linking arms in an act of solidarity, but have done everything in their power to suppress, torture and murder the very free speech in their own countries.

As an outraged Reporters Without Borders, while welcoming the participation of many foreign leaders in the march in Paris in homage to the victims of terror attacks and in defence of the French republic's values, strongly asked:

"On what grounds are representatives of regimes that are predators of press freedom coming to Paris to pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo, a publication that has always defended the most radical concept of freedom of expression?"

Several of the 40 world leaders who joined the start of the Paris march, have policies at home that are in complete contrast with the solidarity for free speech that was on display throughout France on Sunday.

The organization said Sunday that it was "appalled by the presence of leaders from countries where journalists and bloggers are systematically persecuted such as Egypt (which is ranked 159th out of 180 countries in RWB's press freedom index), Russia (148th), Turkey (154th) and United Arab Emirates (118th)."

Christophe Deloire, Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General, said in a statement: "We must demonstrate our solidarity with Charlie Hebdo without forgetting all the world's other Charlies"

"It would be unacceptable if representatives of countries that silence journalists were to take advantage of the current outpouring of emotion to try to improve their international image and then continue their repressive policies when they return home. We must not let predators of press freedom spit on the graves of Charlie Hebdo."

And the organisation is so right. In an epic series of 21 fact-carrying tweets, Daniel Wickham, co-president of London School for Economics Middle East Society, pointed out that many of the world leaders who marched through the streets of Paris are not the world's biggest advocates for press freedom in their own countries.

Below, we list down the tweets that point out the hypocrisy of government solidarity with Charlie Hebdo

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1. King Abdullah of Jordan

2. Prime Minister of Davutoglu of Turkey

3. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel

4. Foreign Minister Shoukry of Egypt

5. Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia

6. Foreign Minister Lamamra of Algeria

7. The Foreign Minister of the UAE

8. Prime Minister Jomaa of Tunisia

9. The PMs of Georgia and Bulgaria

10. The Attorney General of the US

11. Prime Minister Samaras of Greece

12. Sec-Gen of NATO

13. President Keita of Mali

14. The Foreign Minister of Bahrain

15. Sheikh Mohamed Ben Hamad Ben Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar

16. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas

17. Prime Minister Cerar of Slovenia

18. Prime Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland

19. Prime Minister Kopacz of Poland

20. PM Cameron of the UK

21. Saudi ambassador to France

But amidst all the criticism, one could argue, as student Axel Fougner did, "Hypocritical world leaders showing up in Paris does not in any way reduce the sincerity of the millions who marched for #jesuischarlie." While it's an effective argument, one should also remember that, across the world, NOT every journalist is Charlie.

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