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France15 March 2002

Radio journalists and editors charged over satirical sketch about Corsicans

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said today it was astonished and concerned about the charging of five journalists and editors of Radio France for "racist insults" and "complicity" because of a satirical programme about Corsicans broadcast in May last year by the affiliated station France Inter. Freedom to satirise and make gibes is guaranteed in France. Whatever the terms used in the broadcast, its authors are unlikely to have intended stirring up racial hatred and violence towards Corsicans. It is not surprising that comments in bad taste about Corsicans make people touchy, because Corsica is politically in the news. But punishing this is hard to accept in terms of press freedom. Things that are morally deplorable are not all of them crimes. Jean-Marie Cavada, chairman of Radio France, Yves Lecoq and Virginie Lemoine, presenters of the programme "Les agités de JT," as well as producer Christian Rose and Jacques Chiraz, author of the sketch, broadcast on 27 May last year, were charged on 27 February this year before an Ajaccio judge, Jean-Michel Gentil, acting on a complaint by the Unione Corsa d’Antibes, a group in mainland France. The head of France Inter, Jean-Luc Hees, had apologised on the air for the programme.

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