European Court Finds French Government Unable to Take a Joke

Nicolas SarkozyImage: www.flickr.com/ThalesGroup

Nicolas Sarkozy
Image: http://www.flickr.com/ThalesGroup

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday, March 14th that the man condemned by the French government for insulting then-President, Nicolas Sarkozy, should be cleared of all charges.  The Court found that France had violated the man’s right to Freedom of Speech.  Hervé Eon was fined by the French government for displaying an insulting sign in August of 2008 which read, “Casse toi, pov’con.” In English, the closest translation is, “Get lost, you sad prick.”

Eon had chosen these words because they were the very same uttered by Sarkozy to a farmer who refused to shake the President’s hand at an agricultural fair in 2008.  The moment was caught on camera and widely publicized.  In light of this information, the Court decided that Eon’s action was not “abusive,” which was the French government’s conclusion, but instead satirical. Thus, any condemnation or penalties for such acts, the Court found, would inhibit French citizens from speaking their minds.

Upholding the importance of satirical critiques of government, the Court stated that it is “fundamental to democratic society.” They also added that politicians open themselves up to such critiques because of their constant presence in the public eye.

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