France Mila affair: Thirteen on trial over online abuse

Mila's Instagram story in which she criticised Islam
image captionMila could not return to her school after criticising Islam on Instagram

Thirteen people will go on trial over online abuse against a French teenager who posted videos critical of Islam.

Ten men and three women aged between 18 and 30 are due to appear in court in Paris on Thursday, with eight accused of making death threats.

Mila has received 100,000 hate messages after an Instagram video in which she criticised Islam went viral, her lawyer says.

She posted another video on TikTok in November.

Mila, who was 16 when she posted her first video and has now turned 18, is identified only by her first name in France. Her story has revived debate about freedom of speech, as well as protection for schoolchildren from online bullying.

“It’s the first time in the history of this country that a young woman of this age has been given 24-hour police protection,” her lawyer Richard Malka told France Info radio.

Ahead of the trial the teenager posted a message asking for support: “Together let’s refuse to live in fear.”

Her lawyer said his client had been forced into hiding following the online abuse, much of it sexist or homophobic.

“What is chilling and frightening about this case is that they are not delinquents or fanatics,” Mr Malka said of the defendants. “They absolutely all have clean criminal records.”

Mr Malka said many had expressed surprise that they could be prosecuted “for a single tweet”, even if they had used a fake name online or a VPN (virtual private network) to mask their internet address.

In October, a 23-year-old was sentenced to three years over online death threats against Mila.

The teenager was forced to change schools after her initial video was shared online. According to French newspaper La Dépêche, Mila was then withdrawn from the military school she moved to in November, over concerns for her safety after she posted the second clip on TikTok. She has since been learning online.

After Mila’s original remarks, in which she described Islam as a “religion of hate”, two opposing hashtags sprang up: #JeSuisMila (I am Mila) and #JeNeSuisPasMila.

President Emmanuel Macron spoke out in support of the teenager, arguing that in France “we have the right to blaspheme”.

Later this month Mila is due to publish a book about her experiences, entitled “I Am the Price of Your Freedom”.


Florence Akosua Gyeduaa
Florence Akosua Gyeduaa

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