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French free to call Marine Le Pen a 'fascist'

Published: 11 Apr 2014 14:25 GMT+02:00

Le Pen’s National Front party’s strong showing in the recent local elections suggests her efforts to "de-demonize” the image of her party have paid off.

However her labours were dealt a blow by a court in Paris this week, when judges ruled it was OK for political opponents to call her a "fascist".

The ruling is linked to Le Pen having sued her eternal rival the far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon over the “abusive” remarks he made about her during the 2012 presidential campaign.

“Why do you think that the French people would be the only people to want a fascist as a leader?” Mélenchon said after being shown a poll that showed Le Pen was the leading candidate for the first round of voting.

A court in Paris this week ruled that Mélenchon’s use of the word fascist was fair comment.

“If the term fascist can have insulting connotations when used outside of any political context or if accompanied by other demeaning terms, it has, on the other hand, no insulting character when employed between political opponents on a political subject,” the court said before adding that Mélenchon’s description of Le Pen was within the “limits of freedom of expression”.

Speaking after the verdict his lawyer said: “The whole FN policy of trying to silence journalists and political opponents… has failed. Madame Le Pen has today been condemned to put up with being called a fascist.”

Le Pen’s lawsuit was not the first time she has used or threatened to use the law to prevent critics or journalists from saying what they like about her.

In October last year, The Local reported how she said she would sue any journalist who referred to her party as “extreme right”.

The leader of the anti-immigration, anti-EU, far-right party said the use of “extreme right” was a pejorative term deliberately used to damage the National Front.

One political expert told The Local she may have a point, but was nevertheless making a huge mistake.

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Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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