• France edition
 
French free to offend their own president
"Get lost you sad idiot" former President Nicolas Sarkozy was clearly offended by his own remarks. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

French free to offend their own president

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

Anyone who wants to offend the French president is now legally free to do so after parliament voted on Thursday for a change in law in favour of freedom of speech. Be careful what you say, however, as the head of state will still be allowed to sue for defamation.

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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Pupils 'taught abortion is murder' at French school
French pupils claims they were taught 'abortion is murder' at school. Photo: Philippe Ksiazek/AFP

Pupils 'taught abortion is murder' at French school

A private religious school in Paris is under investigation from national education officials after students alleged they’d been told in class that 'abortion is in akin to murder'. The private school has ties to the controversial fundamentalist group Opus Dei. READ () »

Australian 'graffiti tourists' arrested in Paris
File Photo of a typically graffiti covered Paris Metro. Photo: Jacques Demarthon/AFP

Australian 'graffiti tourists' arrested in Paris

Two Australian tourists who had left their mark on the City of Light with a few cans of spray paint, were picked up by French police this week. It appears the pair of graffiti vandals were on an InterRail trip and planned to “tag the whole of Europe” READ () »

Cannes to launch race for 2014 Palme d'Or
French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche (centre), with actresses Adele Exarchopoulos (right) and Lea Seydoux (left), after picking up the 2013 Palme d'Or. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Cannes to launch race for 2014 Palme d'Or

Cannes film festival organisers will unveil on Thursday their pick of the A-listers and art house "auteurs" chosen to take part in this year's movie extravaganza on the French Riviera. READ () »

French football
French cup final will be all-Breton affair
Guingamp players celebrate after their victory over Monaco on Wednesday which sets up an all Breton French cup final against Rennes. Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

French cup final will be all-Breton affair

The French cup final will be an all-Breton affair after underdogs Guingamp produced a major upset by knocking out big spenders Monaco in their semi final tie on Wednesday night. Guingamp will now play fellow Brittany side Rennes in May's final. READ () »

Listeria prompts smoked salmon recall in France
Listeria contamination prompts seafood recall. Photo: Screengrab/Fjord King

Listeria prompts smoked salmon recall in France

A French seafood company recalled on Wednesday three batches of smoked salmon because they were contaminated with the dangerous bacteria listeria, which can cause a serious infection in pregnant women and older people. READ () »

French town takes knife fight to president
Villagers have asked the French president to help them get their name back. Photo: Jose A. Torres/AFP

French town takes knife fight to president

Defiant residents of the French village of Laguiole - famous around the world for its knives - have appealed to their president to intervene on their behalf after they lost a trademark battle in court meaning they are barred from using its name on their own products. READ () »

French parents laidback about kids' education
French parents least stressed about their children's future, a new study finds. Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP

French parents laidback about kids' education

When it comes to stressing about the education of their children French parents are much more relaxed than their counterparts in other countries, a global survey revealed this week. And they are dead against paying for it, it seems. READ () »

France unveils freeze on generous welfare system
Cuts are coming to France's social welfare system. Photo: Patrick Kovarick/AFP

France unveils freeze on generous welfare system

France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls provided his most detailed account yet on Wednesday of the “collective” cuts France will make to trim its budget by €50 billion, including a freeze on state pensions. The sick, families and pensioners will all feel the pain. READ () »

Pets to no longer be seen as just 'chairs' in France
Animals may soon be considered more than furniture in France. Photo: Danperry.com/Flickr

Pets to no longer be seen as just 'chairs' in France

France took a major step this week towards upping the legal status of animals, which presently sees them classed the same as a chair, a lamp or any old 'personal property'. But cats and dogs will soon be judged as “sentient, living beings”. The change wasn't welcomed by all. READ () »

France OKs first women aboard submarines
France will allow women aboard its submarines for the first time. Photo: WIkimedia Commons

France OKs first women aboard submarines

The last bastion of exclusively male jobs in the French military fell this week when the defence minister announced a pilot program to allow the first women to serve aboard nuclear-armed submarines. The minister also revealed an action plan to end sexual harassment in the armed forces. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Education
French parents are the most laidback about their kids' edcuation. True?
Tech
What do French TV viewers complain about the most? Yes it's English
Business & Money
French tax declarations: The key points to remember
Gallery
French slang: Everyday words you need to know (but use cautiously)
National
Paris cops told to ‘purge’ Roma from posh neighbourhood
International
VIDEO: ‘Anti-French’ Cadillac ad sparks anger in France. See why.
Features
Buying property in France? Here's 10 things you need to think about
National
What will the future map of France look like? The answer lies within.
Politics
'The 27 French regions aren't the problem, it's the 36,000 towns'
Culture
Ex underage call girl Zahia picked to embody Marie Antoinette
Gallery
Buying a house in France? Ten things you need to think about
National
France bans work emails after 6pm! Sadly it's not quite true.
Advertisement:
Opinion
Reader Rants: Why don't the French do charity? Is it down to taxes?
Society
VIDEO: The Paris zoo is back but this time the animals are in charge
National
This will be the most expensive road in France - Only €1.66bn for 12km!
Society
Only in France? Gourmet pensioners party lands village in hot water
National
What's the worst thing to do when you realise you're on the wrong train?
From showers to kissing: Anglos tell Twitter what's weird about France
National
'A big quake will hit France and there will be casualties' - Scientist warns
Culture
After all the dozens of books is France still worth writing about?
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Opinion
Paris or the suburbs - where would you live?
National
VIDEO: Walk the line - crossing the Seine on a tightrope
Society
Innocent dating or pimping? French 'sugar babies' site hit with lawsuit
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se