• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

French free to offend their own president

Ben McPartland · 25 Jul 2013, 19:44

Published: 25 Jul 2013 19:44 GMT+02:00

What can an ordinary citizen get away with saying to the French president without being hauled before a court?

Well, from Thursday they will be able to say a whole lot more including something along the lines of "get lost you sad idiot" if they so desire.

It comes after the country's Senate confirmed a change in a law dating back to 1881 which had forbid anyone from offending France's head of state. At one point it had been punishable by up to one year in prison.

The change in law follows a landmark European court ruling in favour of freedom of speech in deciding France was wrong to convict a member of the public who had publicly offended the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008.

In August that year, leftist activist Hervé Eon had stood before Sarkozy during a presidential visit to Laval, in western France, brandishing a sign bearing the words “Casse-toi, pov’con”, which means “Get lost you sad idiot.”

Eon did not pluck the insulting phrase from thin air, of course. "Casse toi, pov'con," which was also translated in the ECHR ruling as “Get lost you sad prick,” was the same one Sarkozy  himself had infamously used to rebuke a member of the public, who had refused to shake his hand at an event in Paris earlier that year.

But the president's guards did not see the irony and Eon was immediately taken in for questioning. He was subsequently convicted of ‘causing offence to the chief of state’ and fined €30.

CLICK HERE FOR TEN OF THE BEST FRENCH INSULTS (Warning! - not all are appropriate to say to the president)

After an unsuccessful appeals process within France, Eon was finally vindicated in Strasbourg, when the court found his punishment by the French government had been “disproportionate.”

France had violated the man's freedom of expression, the ECHR ruled saying the criminal penalties handed down by Paris were “likely to have a chilling effect on satirical contributions to discussion of matters of public interest."

The French should still be careful what they say however as President will be still be able to sue for defamation or slander if they can prove it. It can be punishable by a fine of up to €45,000.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Summer in France: The top ten beaches
Photo: Gomezdegomera/Flickr

How many have you been to?

France braces for busiest day of traffic all summer
Photo: AFP

Thinking of driving this weekend? The French are being advised to think twice.

Opinion
'France has problems but it's not on brink of civil war'
A French police officer stands in front of a Muslim prayer room after it was destroyed by a fire, suspected to be arson, in Ajaccio.. Photo: AFP

While certain French politicians and security chiefs have openly talked of the nightmare prospect of civil war in France, one expert tells The Local the country is too resolute to go down that path.

Ten hidden gems in France you should visit this summer
Photo: Erik Harström/Flickr

Looking for holiday ideas this summer?

What's on: Ten cool things to do in France in August 2016
Photo: AFP

August is almost here - and we've got you covered for events.

Paris in August: Should you stay or should you go now?
Photo: AFP

When it comes to August in Paris, you're either a stayer or a goer. But which is the best choice?

French PM: 'France needs new relationship with Islam'
Photo: AFP

As France struggles to get to grips with an increasing number of terror attacks the French PM says the country needs a new relationship with Islam.

France's Muslims urged to attend mass in solidarity
Photo: AFP

A leading Muslim group in France has called on its community to attend a church mass this Sunday to show solidarity with Christians after the recent jihadist killing of a priest.

Hopes hit as France reports 'disappointing' zero growth
Photo: AFP

Hopes of small economic growth in France were hit on Friday when the latest GDP figures were announced.

Air France strike affects 30,000 passengers each day
Photo: AFP

The week-long Air France cabin crew strike continued on Friday with some 30,000 passengers hit by cancellations each day.

Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Travel
Summer in France: The top ten beaches
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
France: A timeline of terror since the Charlie Hebdo attack
A timeline of terror in France since Charlie Hebdo
Culture
Thirteen free and easy ways to learn French
Culture
32 mistakes foreigners make when they arrive in France
National
Here are the worst scams to avoid whilst driving in France
Analysis & Opinion
Isis can simply be a conduit for the violent desires of psychopaths
Features
Six outdoor bars in Paris you simply must visit
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Culture
The open-air Villette cinema has been cancelled over security fears
Culture
Henri Rousseau exhibition proves huge hit in Paris
National
Frenchman caught trying to sell Nice massacre souvenirs online
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
OPEN NOW: Here's why you should head to the Paris Plages
Culture
What's on in France: Still plenty to see and do in July
Lifestyle
Treasures of Versailles to go on display in Australia
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
National
Nice attack: What we know so far
National
Nice attacker: Body-building, drug-taking, violent flirt
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
IN IMAGES: Drawings in tribute to Nice attack victims
Society
Promenade des Anglais: The iconic heart of the French Riviera
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
France faces more questions after latest deadly attack
National
Why is France the target of choice for jihadist attacks?
National
Nice truck attack: 'Bodies went flying like bowling pins'
Nice attack: Families of missing make pleas on Twitter
2,755
jobs available