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If You Think The French President Is 'Stupide,' Just Say So

France's President Francois Hollande. His predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, reportedly thinks he's "a ridiculous little fat man."
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AFP/Getty Images
France's President Francois Hollande. His predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, reportedly thinks he's "a ridiculous little fat man."

The French are famous for their insults, but traditionally they haven't taken it well when the target is the president of the republic.

A vote in parliament on Thursday has changed that. For the first time in 130 years, it's now legal to say how you really feel about the French leader.

So, if you think that French President Francois Hollande is "a ridiculous little fat man who dyes his hair," as Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly said (in private) of his successor, you're free to say so — in public.

It all started in 2008, when a French demonstrator held up a sign exhorting then-President Sarkozy to "Get lost, jerk." The man was fined $50 for "offending the head of state." The incident prompted the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to rule in March that France had violated the protester's right to freedom of expression.

As The Daily Mail writes:

"The ECHR acknowledged that the insult constituted 'criticism of a political nature' for which 'freedom of expression was of the highest importance.'

"Now anyone who chooses to insult a serving French president will have to be pursued through the libel courts."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.