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“Dear Future Mum”: France censors people with Down syndrome on television

#ProtectFreeSpeech

“Dear Future Mum”: France censors people with Down syndrome on television

#ProtectFreeSpeech

Who:
Fondation Jérôme Lejeune

Where:
European Court of Human Rights

Advocacy Team:
Jennifer Lea; Jean-Paul Van de Walle 

Topic | Freedom of Speech

“Dear future Mum: Don’t be afraid. Your child will be able to hug you, and to go to school.”

This was the joyful message expressed in “Dear Future Mum”—a short video supported by Fondation Jérôme Lejeune, the organisation which has, for years, set the standard in research and care for people with Down syndrome. The video stars eighteen young people seeking to destigmatize their condition and speak about their experiences. Yet, after a French public authority deemed the video to not be a “message of general interest,” these Down syndrome voices were taken off air. Represented by ADF International, the Foundation brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled on 1 September 2022 that the case was inadmissible.

Watch the video for yourself here:

Who:
Fondation Jérôme Lejeune

Where:
European Court of Human Rights

Advocacy Team:
Jennifer Lea; Jean-Paul Van de Walle 

Watch the video for yourself here:

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"No matter who the child is, their mother can be happy! I urge everyone to accept people like me because we are no different from you."

- Robin Sevette, Actor with Down syndrome, featured in 'Dear Future Mum' Tweet quote

Case Summary

“I’m expecting a baby. I’ve discovered he’ll have Down syndrome. I’m scared: what kind of life will my child have?”

The video, titled “Dear Future Mum”, begins by quoting an email from a pregnant mother, seeking advice. Her message read, “I’m expecting a baby. I’ve discovered he has Down syndrome. I’m scared: what kind of life will my child have?”. In response, people with Down syndrome shared their stories, their joys, and their challenges to reassure the worried mother that life with Down syndrome could be fulfilling and enriching.  

For some time, Fondation Jérôme Lejeune shared this encouraging footage across various French media platforms. That was until, the French public authority for broadcasting issued an opinion to say that it was not “a message of general interest”. Subsequently, the state television channel refused to broadcast the video any more. The European Court of Human Rights, unfortunately, ruled that the case was inadmissible on 1 September 2022—a failure of justice for persons with disabilities and all concerned with the freedom of expression.

Freedom of speech is the foundation of every free and democratic society, and protected in international human rights law. Nobody should be censored simply for sharing about their life with Down syndrome. We supported the case of Fondation Jérôme Lejeune at the highest levels because every voice deserves a chance to be heard. 

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Related News and Updates

European Court of Human Rights undermines free speech protections in Down syndrome ruling

The European Court of Human Rights has found inadmissible an application by Fondation Jérôme Lejeune claiming that the French Broadcasting Council’s designation of a Down syndrome video as not “a message of general interest” constituted unjust censorship. The Court’s failure to condemn the French authority’s treatment of Down syndrome voices stands in stark contrast to recent national decisions in Europe upholding freedom of expression.

Read More »

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