A man who was fined for displaying an ‘abusive’ sign to former president Nicolas Sarkozy was today cleared of his conviction as the European Court of Human Rights found that France had violated Hervé Eon’s right to freedom of speech.
He had previously been fined by a French court for €30, an amount deemed ‘disproportionate’ by the Strasbourg court.
In August 2008 the man had held a placard with the words “Casse toi pov’con” which translates as a crude version of “get lost, you sad prat.”
Those particular words were chosen by the political activist because they had recently been voiced by Sarkozy himself, attracting a lot of media attention at the time. Sarkozy had said the words to a farmer who refused to shake his hand at an agricultural fair earlier in 2008. The moment was caught on camera and within days had received over a million hits online. For this reason the Court ruled that Eon’s actions were satirical in nature and did not constitute a personal attack.
The Court warned that any penalties for acts such as this would have a negative effect on public satirical contributions that are “fundamental to a democratic society.”
The Court also pointed out that “politicians inevitably and knowingly laid themselves open to close public scrutiny of their words and deeds and consequently had to display a greater degree of tolerance towards criticism directed at them.”