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ECHR upholds hate speech conviction against Eric Zemmour

December 20, 2022

The French far-right figure's remarks on Muslims in France were deemed discriminatory by a Paris court. The European rights court said the verdict against him did not violate his freedom of expression.

Eric Zemmour during campaigning for the 2022 presidential election
Eric Zemmour got 7% of the vote in this year's presidential electionImage: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday ruled that a conviction of hate speech by the French judiciary against far-right figure Eric Zemmour did not violate his right to freedom of speech.

Zemmour, a former presidential candidate and TV pundit, was convicted over his 2016 television remarks in which he compared Muslims to jihadis.

A Paris Appeals court in 2018 deemed his comments discriminatory against Muslims.

What did the ECHR say?

The Strasbourg-based ECHR said, "The interference with [Zemmour's] right to freedom of expression had been necessary in a democratic society to protect the rights of others which had been at stake in the case."

It stressed that Zemmour had "duties and responsibilities" as a journalist and was aware of the scope and consequences of his words on a television program.

Zemmour made a series of negative and discriminatory remarks that sought to "stoke a rift between the French and the Muslim community as a whole," the court said in its ruling. 

Why was Zemmour convicted? 

In 2016, Zemmour claimed that France was undergoing "an invasion, a colonization" by Muslims.

He went on to urge French Muslims to "choose between Islam and France."

The Paris court ordered him to pay a fine of €3,000 ($3,188) for inciting discrimination, hatred or violence.

This was not Zemmour's first run-in with the law. He has been tried in several cases over racially discriminatory remarks and hate speech. 

In 2010, he was convicted of incitement to racial hatred after saying discrimination against Black and Arab people was justified.

fb/sms (AFP, Reuters, EFE, KNA)