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Finally, there is also a law against “offenses [outrage] against the national hymn or the tricolor flag”, which has been compared to a kind of “secular blasphemy” by critics. Unlike many such laws in other countries, this one was enacted very recently (2003) following some controversies about the attitude of crowds when the national hymn was played at the beginning of football matches. It's not part of the aforementioned “law on the freedom of the press” and only applies to some public events (i.e. it does not prevent you from making fun of the flag or hymn in a cartoon or a song).

Finally, there is also a law against “offenses [outrage] against the national hymn or the tricolor flag”, which has been compared to a kind of “secular blasphemy” by critics. Unlike many such laws, this one was enacted very recently (2003) following some controversies about the attitude of crowds when the national hymn was played at the beginning of football matches. It's not part of the aforementioned “law on the freedom of the press” and only applies to some public events (i.e. it does not prevent you from making fun of the flag or hymn in a cartoon or a song).

Finally, there is also a law against “offenses [outrage] against the national hymn or the tricolor flag”, which has been compared to a kind of “secular blasphemy” by critics. Unlike many such laws in other countries, this one was enacted very recently (2003) following some controversies about the attitude of crowds when the national hymn was played at the beginning of football matches. It's not part of the aforementioned “law on the freedom of the press” and only applies to some public events (i.e. it does not prevent you from making fun of the flag or hymn in a cartoon or a song).

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Finally, there is also a law against “offenses [outrage] against the national hymn or the tricolor flag”, which has been compared to a kind of “secular blasphemy” by critics. Unlike many such laws, this one was enacted very recently (2003) following some controversies about the attitude of crowds when the national hymn was played at the beginning of football matches. It's not part of the aforementioned “law on the freedom of the press” and only applies to some public events (i.e. it does not prevent you from making fun of the flag or hymn in a cartoon or a song).

Finally, there is also a law against “offenses [outrage] against the national hymn or the tricolor flag”, which has been compared to a kind of “secular blasphemy” by critics. Unlike many such laws, this one was enacted very recently (2003) following some controversies about the attitude of crowds when the national hymn was played at the beginning of football matches. It's not part of the aforementioned “law on the freedom of the press” and only applies to some public events (i.e. it does not prevent you from making fun of the flag or hymn in a cartoon or a song).

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Since you are asking if any country generally considered to be democratic restrictrestricts offensive speech, I will offer France as an example. French law punishes personal offenses, offenses against public figures and some institutions and offenses against certain groups but does not protect religious symbols as such. Specifically, article 29 of the law on the freedom of the press provides that:

Toute expression outrageante, termes de mépris ou invective qui ne renferme l'imputation d'aucun fait est une injure.

In English:

All offensive expressions, terms of disdain or invectives that do not ascribe specific facts are insults [the word “insulte” also exists in French but has no legal meaning so I will use “insult” as translation for “injure”.]

Article 33 of the same law provides that such insults carry

  • A € 12,000 fine when addressed to the “courts, tribunals, the army, the navy, the air force […] one or several members of the government, one or several members of either chamber of parliament, a civil servant” and a few other groups.
  • A € 12,000 fine when addressed to a private person but only if it was “unprovoked”.
  • A € 22,500 fine and a six month jail term when addressed to a person or a group because of “their origin, their belonging or not belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race or a religion […] their gender, their sexual orientation or their disability”.

There used to be separate provisions punishing insults against foreign head of states and against France's own president but as of 2015 those are not part of the law anymore. Insults against the French president could still be punished using the article protecting other public figures.

The last time someone was sentenced for insulting the president in France was in 2008. That person held a sign reading “Get lost, you bloody idiot” (a phrase the president uttered himself a few months earlier) during an official visit in his town. France was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for this and ultimately removed this provision from the law.

On the other hand, religious symbols or figures are not protected as such by French law. You won't find any law defining blasphemy in general law (but see below) or punishing offenses against Christ or Christianity. But it'sthere is a fine line between insulting a religion and insulting a group of people because of their religion.

Case in point is Charlie Hebdo, the satire weekly that was attacked in January 2015. It has frequently been sued, among others for its caricatures on catholic themes. It won most of these trials but did lose once, in 1996. Another trial took place after it published the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad caricatures. Among the three caricatures named by the plaintiffs, the court deemed that one (the one by Kurt Westergaard) did in fact amount to an insult against Muslims (but it ruled that it should be interpreted in a broader context and ultimately found the paper not guilty).

A curiosity is Alsace-Moselle (the region in the east of France that was German between 1871 and 1918). TheyIt still retainretains a number of specific laws (“droit local”) enacted by the German Empire and never abolished in France, including a provision punishing “blasphemy” (see franceinfo.fr and lalsace.fr). This law is still on the books but it's basically obsolete and has not been used recently to my knowledge.

Since you are asking if any country generally considered to be democratic restrict offensive speech, I will offer France as an example. French law punishes personal offenses, offenses against public figures and some institutions and offenses against certain groups but does not protect religious symbols as such. Specifically, article 29 of the law on the freedom of the press provides that:

Toute expression outrageante, termes de mépris ou invective qui ne renferme l'imputation d'aucun fait est une injure.

In English:

All offensive expressions, terms of disdain or invectives that do not ascribe specific facts are insults [the word “insulte” also exists in French but has no legal meaning so I will use “insult” as translation for “injure”.]

Article 33 of the same law provides that such insults carry

  • A € 12,000 fine when addressed to the “courts, tribunals, the army, the navy, the air force […] one or several members of the government, one or several members of either chamber of parliament, a civil servant” and a few other groups.
  • A € 12,000 fine when addressed to a private person but only if it was “unprovoked”.
  • A € 22,500 fine and a six month jail term when addressed to a person or a group because of “their origin, their belonging or not belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race or a religion […] their gender, their sexual orientation or their disability”.

There used to be separate provisions punishing insults against foreign head of states and against France's own president but as of 2015 those are not part of the law anymore. Insults against the French president could still be punished using the article protecting other public figures.

The last time someone was sentenced for insulting the president in France was in 2008. That person held a sign reading “Get lost, you bloody idiot” (a phrase the president uttered himself a few months earlier) during an official visit in his town. France was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for this and ultimately removed this provision from the law.

On the other hand, religious symbols or figures are not protected as such by French law. You won't find any law defining blasphemy in general law (but see below) or punishing offenses against Christ or Christianity. But it's a fine line between insulting a religion and insulting a group of people because of their religion.

Case in point is Charlie Hebdo, the satire weekly that was attacked in January 2015. It has frequently been sued, among others for its caricatures on catholic themes. It won most of these trials but did lose once, in 1996. Another trial took place after it published the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad caricatures. Among the three caricatures named by the plaintiffs, the court deemed that one (the one by Kurt Westergaard) did in fact amount to an insult against Muslims (but it ruled that it should be interpreted in a broader context and ultimately found the paper not guilty).

A curiosity is Alsace-Moselle (the region in the east of France that was German between 1871 and 1918). They still retain a number of specific laws (“droit local”) enacted by the German Empire and never abolished in France, including a provision punishing “blasphemy” (see franceinfo.fr and lalsace.fr). This law is still on the books but it's basically obsolete and has not been used recently to my knowledge.

Since you are asking if any country generally considered to be democratic restricts offensive speech, I will offer France as an example. French law punishes personal offenses, offenses against public figures and some institutions and offenses against certain groups but does not protect religious symbols as such. Specifically, article 29 of the law on the freedom of the press provides that:

Toute expression outrageante, termes de mépris ou invective qui ne renferme l'imputation d'aucun fait est une injure.

In English:

All offensive expressions, terms of disdain or invectives that do not ascribe specific facts are insults [the word “insulte” also exists in French but has no legal meaning so I will use “insult” as translation for “injure”.]

Article 33 of the same law provides that such insults carry

  • A € 12,000 fine when addressed to the “courts, tribunals, the army, the navy, the air force […] one or several members of the government, one or several members of either chamber of parliament, a civil servant” and a few other groups.
  • A € 12,000 fine when addressed to a private person but only if it was “unprovoked”.
  • A € 22,500 fine and a six month jail term when addressed to a person or a group because of “their origin, their belonging or not belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race or a religion […] their gender, their sexual orientation or their disability”.

There used to be separate provisions punishing insults against foreign head of states and against France's own president but as of 2015 those are not part of the law anymore. Insults against the French president could still be punished using the article protecting other public figures.

The last time someone was sentenced for insulting the president in France was in 2008. That person held a sign reading “Get lost, you bloody idiot” (a phrase the president uttered himself a few months earlier) during an official visit in his town. France was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for this and ultimately removed this provision from the law.

On the other hand, religious symbols or figures are not protected as such by French law. You won't find any law defining blasphemy in general law (but see below) or punishing offenses against Christ or Christianity. But there is a fine line between insulting a religion and insulting a group of people because of their religion.

Case in point is Charlie Hebdo, the satire weekly that was attacked in January 2015. It has frequently been sued, among others for its caricatures on catholic themes. It won most of these trials but did lose once, in 1996. Another trial took place after it published the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad caricatures. Among the three caricatures named by the plaintiffs, the court deemed that one (the one by Kurt Westergaard) did in fact amount to an insult against Muslims (but it ruled that it should be interpreted in a broader context and ultimately found the paper not guilty).

A curiosity is Alsace-Moselle (the region in the east of France that was German between 1871 and 1918). It still retains a number of specific laws (“droit local”) enacted by the German Empire and never abolished in France, including a provision punishing “blasphemy” (see franceinfo.fr and lalsace.fr). This law is still on the books but it's basically obsolete and has not been used recently to my knowledge.

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