patten140_Louise DelmotteGetty Images_french election Louise Delmotte/Getty Images

France’s Presidential Election Matters for Us All

French voters have all the information and evidence required to comprehend the evil that Russian President Vladimir Putin represents. If they make the wrong choice on April 24, they will not be able to use ignorance as a defense.

TARN-ET-GARONNE – In open societies, there is a close relationship between a responsible and uncensored media on the one hand and democracy and the rule of law on the other. Properly informed citizens in democracies take their share of responsibility for what their government does. One must hope French voters do so on April 24 by ensuring that the incumbent Emmanuel Macron defeats Marine Le Pen, his right-wing nationalist challenger, in the second round of the country’s presidential election.

By contrast, autocracies depend on their ability to exert maximum control over most aspects – political, economic, social, and cultural – of a country’s life. And fundamental to that control is determining what the public are allowed to know about what is really happening in and outside their own society. To prevent growing criticism and unrest, non-democratic governments must stamp out free speech and inquiry, spread false news, and create a narrative that supports authoritarian rule.

In China, for example, the authorities describe the repression of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang as simply limited anti-terrorism measures and peaceful re-education. Any suggestion that Muslims are locked up in camps, tortured, and separated from their children, or that women are subjected to forced sterilization and abortions, is blacked out. Some human-rights lawyers argue that these policies are crimes against humanity and perhaps even examples of genocide.

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