“The late Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and journalists would have been the first to argue that free speech involves arguing against the kind of vicious stereotypes they were perpetuating’, says Nabila Ramdani, a French freelance journalist of Algerian descent. “They spent many years trying to demonize people of all faiths and mainly Muslims like myself, I’m very sorry that people are still trying to support this kind of free speech,” she adds.

In the 11th arrondissement of Paris, where the newspaper office is located, Mairie’s building displays a banner: “Nous sommmes Charlie”. Against that slogan created just after the attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, Nabila Ramdani says she is not Charlie.

Inside Mairie dozens of journalists’ unions representatives were discussing the subject last week. I was there for the Portuguese union of journalists. We talked about the limits of freedom of expression and how to cope with stereotypes about Muslims. Nabila’s speech excited the room.

“The French Republic is by no means the bastion of free speech and has never been”, she stressed.

Some other highlights:

“Overtly racist material”

“Concept of free speech cannot be absolute”

French journalists are “extremely deferential towards the establishment.”

“British media is generally pretty fair to Muslims”

The speech was received with applause but also some criticism. Next to Nabila Ramdani, Charlie Hebdo’s Zineb El Rhazoui replied. “In 30 years of existence Charlie Hebdo has published three single front pages on Islam but much more on the extreme right. Readers know that Charlie Hebdo is a profoundly anti-racist newspaper with an atheistic position.”

Bruno Horta