France could remove word ‘race’ after scandal

The outrage caused by a notorious French politician’s claim that France is a “country of white race” could bring about symbolic and perhaps significant change in the constitution.

France could remove word 'race' after scandal
Photo: AFP

MEP Nadine Morano’s (see pic below) repeated insistence during a TV panel show that France is “a country of white race” shocked and angered lawmakers across the political spectrum and left the former minister fighting for her political future.

While many spoke out to condemn her words the controversy has reopened an old row and on Thursday there were renewed calls for the president to fulfill his pre-election promise to delete the word “race” from the French constitution.

They were led by the far left who have long called for any trace of “race” to be wiped out from the law and the constitution and they we backed by government minister Michel Sapin.

“It is true that the word race today doesn't have the same meaning as it once had,” said Sapin told France 2.

“Today the word race is about racism and racism, it is not compatible with the Republic.

“This is why the term 'white race' is an abominable term, a term completely inconsistent with the values of the Republic,” he added.

The French Constitution states: “France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic. It guarantees equality before the law for all citizens without distinction of origin, race or religion.”

But in the run up to his election victory over Nicolas Sarkozy, Hollande said “there is no place for race in the Republic”.

But despite the promise Hollande did not take the matter any further.

In May 2013 French MPs voted to remove the word from around 60 legislative texts, but the bill never went before the Senate and Hollande never made the move to change the constitution.

Morano's words may have presented him with an opportunity but critics and even some anti-racism groups claim the symbolic move will have little impact in reality.

For her part Morano, of the right-wing The Republicans party, could be barred from standing in regional elections in December over her remarks, in which she also said France was a “Jewish-Christian” country.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who heads the party — the main opposition to the governing Socialists — has asked the leadership to withdraw Morano from its list of candidates for the biggest electoral test of 2015.

Morano, a former minister with a reputation for gaffes and unguarded Twitter comments, said in a television interview on Saturday that: “We are a Jewish-Christian country… of white race, which takes in foreigners.”

Sarkozy, who once counted the 51-year-old as one of his closest allies in his government, said: “I will not accept any slip-ups.”

Morano has been condemned from all points of the political spectrum, and the head of The Republicans' list of candidates for eastern France, Philippe Richert, said her comments had had a “devastating effect” on his campaign.

Morano insists she is the victim of a “witchhunt”.

“I said nothing terrible. In fact I don't think I've done anything wrong,” she said.

Support has come from one predictable source — the former leader of the far-right National Front (FN), Jean-Marie Le Pen, who said Morano was “stating the obvious” when she described France as a country of “white race”.


French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts

A French court has ordered Twitter to give activists full access to all its documents relating to efforts to combat racism, sexism and other forms of hate speech on the social network.

French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts
Photo: Alastair Pike | AFP

Six anti-discrimination groups had taken Twitter to court in France last year, accusing the US social media giant of “long-term and persistent” failures in blocking hateful comments from the site.

The Paris court ordered Twitter to grant the campaign groups full access to all documents relating to the company’s efforts to combat hate speech since May 2020. The ruling applies to Twitter’s global operation, not just France.

Twitter must hand over “all administrative, contractual, technical or commercial documents” detailing the resources it has assigned to fighting homophobic, racist and sexist discourse on the site, as well as “condoning crimes against humanity”.

The San Francisco-based company was given two months to comply with the ruling, which also said it must reveal how many moderators it employs in France to examine posts flagged as hateful, and data on the posts they process.

The ruling was welcomed by the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF), one of the groups that had taken the social media giant to court.

“Twitter will finally have to take responsibility, stop equivocating and put ethics before profit and international expansion,” the UEJF said in a statement on its website.

Twitter’s hateful conduct policy bans users from promoting violence, or threatening or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender identity or disability, among other forms of discrimination.

Like other social media businesses it allows users to report posts they believe are hateful, and employs moderators to vet the content.

But anti-discrimination groups have long complained that holes in the policy allow hateful comments to stay online in many cases.

French prosecutors on Tuesday said they have opened an investigation into a wave of racist comments posted on Twitter aimed at members of the country’s national football team.

The comments, notably targeting Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, were posted after France was eliminated from the Euro 2020 tournament last week.

France has also been having a wider public debate over how to balance the right to free speech with preventing hate speech, in the wake of the controversial case of a teenager known as Mila.

The 18-year-old sparked a furore last year when her videos, criticising Islam in vulgar terms, went viral on social media.

Thirteen people are on trial accused of subjecting her to such vicious harassment that she was forced to leave school and was placed under police protection.

While President Emmanuel Macron is among those who have defended her right to blaspheme, left-wing critics say her original remarks amounted to hate speech against Muslims.