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South African opera star accuses Paris airport staff of ‘outrageous racial discrimination’

South African opera star Pretty Yende on Tuesday accused French customs agents of treating her with "outrageous racial discrimination" at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, a claim strongly contested by police and airport sources.

South African opera star accuses Paris airport staff of 'outrageous racial discrimination'
The incident happened at Charles de Gaulle airport. Illustration photo: Ian Langsdon/AFP

“Police brutality is real for someone who looks like me,” the soprano, who is black, wrote on her Instagram account a day after arriving for a string of performances in Paris.

Yende, 36, said she was “traumatised” after being “stripped and searched like a criminal offender” at the airport.

“I am one of the very very lucky ones to be alive to see the day today even with ill-treatment and outrageous racial discrimination and psychological torture and very offensive racial comments in a country that I’ve given so much of my heart and virtue to,” she wrote.

Yende did not say why she was pulled aside for questioning, but a French police source said the singer had arrived from Milan on a South African passport without a visa.

“At no moment were there any incidents,” the source said, adding that Yende had not been asked to remove her clothes.

She was released an hour and a half later with a visa allowing her to enter French territory, an airport source said, adding that Yende was held for “verification” purposes that had nothing to do with the colour of her skin.

Yende, who was born in the small South African town of Piet Retief, has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past decade, starring in operas from Vienna and Berlin to Barcelona and Los Angeles.

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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.

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