Reporters Without Borders is shocked by the extremely disturbing comments about freedom expression that Pope Francis made to journalists last week, in which he put respect for religion and faith above free speech and even defended the possible use of violence when religion is mocked.
During an inflight news conference while on his way to the Philippines, the pope said: “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith. There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity (…) in freedom of expression there are limits.”
Pointing to Alberto Gasparri, an aide who organizes his travel, the pope said: “If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”
These are disturbing words from the Catholic Church’s most senior official. By putting religion above freedom of expression and by portraying violence as a “normal” reaction when religion is mocked, the pope used shocking and irresponsible language just days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Reporters Without Borders reminds him that eight journalists were killed in cold blood on 7 January just for using their freedom of expression.
Reporters Without Borders also points out that the only limits on freedom of expression are those established by the law. It is not the job of religious leaders to define the limits to free speech. And it is dangerous for any moral or religious authority to defend violence as a response to the use of the freedom of expression.