SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: March 28, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Region & Country:Europe | France

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 28, 2023, it was reported that University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne professor Carlos Moreno was the subject of harassment and death threats in response to his work on a concept called the “15-minute city.”

In 2015, Moreno formed the concept, the “15-minute city,” which suggests that offices, schools, stores, and other everyday places should be only a short walk or bike ride from home. In 2021, Moreno won the Obel Award for the concept, for showing how to reimagine cities to primarily benefit people and the environment, which brought more public attention and criticism to the concept.

On March 28, The New York Times reported that Moreno was subject to harassment and death threats at online forums and over email. The harassment and threats are reportedly largely coming from climate change deniers and QAnon conspiracy believers, who claim that the “15-minute city” concept is a step toward urban “prison camps” and “climate change lockdowns” with heavy surveillance and restrictions on movement. They accuse Moreno of being an agent of an invisible totalitarian world government.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent harassment of a scholar, in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of academic freedom. In addition to the harm and personal risk to their target, such threats erode university autonomy and chill academic work by scholars more broadly. Where such threats occur, universities, law enforcement, and others must take available action to ensure the scholar’s safety and ability to exercise the right to academic freedom without risk of physical harm.