On February 17th, 2016, French Parliament voted to extend the nation’s state of emergency for three months. A state of emergency allows the police and other authorities to perform raids without warrants, and to place citizens under house arrest without prior judge approval, among other things. Since the devastating Paris attacks in November 2015, the government has carried out an astonishing 3,200 raids, but Paris’ counter-terrorism unit has opened only five terrorism-related investigations. The number of raids and lack of sufficient evidence to justify them has human rights activists alarmed. Sadly for these groups there appears to be no end in sight as the French Prime Minister proclaims the state would be extended “as long as it is necessary”, as reported by Anealla Safdar for Al Jazeera English.
Like we have seen in our own country, the French government is using a time of tragedy and a time of fear to its advantage. By choosing to extend the state of emergency, France has elected to further erode the basic fundamental rights of freedom that are supposed to represent the free western world. Similarly, in the United States we have seen ever-growing surveillance measures since 9/11. Political leaders utilize the devastation-induced short-sighted reactions of anger to employ long term measures to grant themselves more power. But has the cost of sacrificing freedom reaped the rewards of preventing terrorists? In the US, it may be difficult to tell due to the government’s secrecy, but in France these overreaching powers granted to the state have not been justified.
Unfortunately, it is Muslims that are the primary targets in these raids, only adding to the Islamophobia that has plagued France and many other western nations for many years. Cultural tensions had been high even prior to the Paris attacks, due to the Charlie Hebdo attacks that took place less than a year earlier. As Safdar reported, many raids that have taken place have been done using “excessive” force according to research by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The raids have traumatized many families, resulting in greater hostility between Muslims and non-Muslims in France. However, France is not the only place that has seen an increased animosity between locals and Muslims as the mass migration of Syrians across Western Europe has also caused a multitude of problems. Rising tension and animosity between these groups can only spell trouble for the future especially as the two worlds have moved to a closer proximity.
At the time of this being written, the only major US news agencies to have even picked up on the extension being given to France’s state of emergency were Fox News, the New York Times, and ABC News. All of these reports drew on an original story from the Associated Press, which consisted of a couple paragraphs describing the state of emergency, and reporting the tally of the Parliament’s vote, which was 212-31. While the news was fresh, one could expect a major announcement like this to be given more in-depth analysis. While it is difficult to speculate on why so few agencies reported this news, it may just be as simple as this news would not sell to the American public.
While the state of emergency will eventually end, this is a clear political ploy for the state to gain more power. As seen in the United States, 9/11 was taken advantage of to employ greater monitoring of its citizens, with little evidence showing the benefits. History is repeating itself in France; however, few people are getting the information needed to make their own judgment on the situation. If domestic news agencies cannot be relied upon to deliver important information regarding events overseas, it is crucial that the American public takes initiative to research current events. In this internet age, everyone is capable of finding these resources, whether it be through foreign news agencies or independent agencies, both foreign and domestic.
Anealla Safdar, “France State of Emergency ‘Extended on Slim Evidence’”, Al Jazeera English, February 17, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/02/france-state-emergency-extended-slim-evidence-160217174759408.html.
Student Researcher: Arthur Hughes (Saginaw Valley State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Emily J. Beard (Saginaw Valley State University)