French comic's anti-Semitic jokes test limits of free speech

French humorist Dieudonne M'bala M'bala is seen in the midst of a media scrum in November 2011 (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

French humorist Dieudonne M'bala M'bala is seen in the midst of a media scrum in November 2011 (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

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A legal tug-of-war over a comic's controversial routine has sparked a national debate about free speech, public order and social values in France. After a confusing back-and-forth in the courts, Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala's show in Nantes was ultimately banned on Thursday, much to the chagrin of 5,000 ticket holders.

The comic's set has come under fire for containing anti-Semitic jokes, and his popular arm gesture (the quenelle) is alleged to be an inverted Nazi salute.

Freelance reporter Anne Penketh updates Terry on why the government has described him an "alleged comedian", the ripple effects the dispute has had on French culture, and why France's Human Right's League has publicly objected to pre-emptive bans on his divisive act.


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