The Court of Appeals upheld the conviction against Eric Zemmour for provocation of religious hate, following Islamophobic comments made two years ago. During a September 6, 2016 broadcast, the journalist had said that it was necessary to give Muslims “the choice between Islam and France.” Adding that France has been under “invasion” for the past thirty years and that “in the numerous French suburbs where many girls are veiled” there was a “struggle to Islamize the territory.”
Zemmour has been ordered to pay a fine of € 5,000, as well as the payment of a symbolic euro of damages claimed by CAPJPO-EuroPalestine, and to €2,000 for “legal costs.”
His sentencing has prompted reactions for politicians and journalists.
Following the sentencing, Benoit Hamon said: “Today, we cannot suggest that we can be Islamophobic, encourage hatred of others, and calmly hold a microphone, get paid for it, and think it’s an opinion.”
Benoit criticized Le Figaro and RTL for continuing to employ Zemmour. “What has just been reiterated by the courts is that it was not an opinion but a crime…those responsible are not only those who speak. They are also the ones who employ [these people] and think that because it attracts an audience, we must continue to broadcast this discourse.”
An editorial in the Muslim Post said that there was “little doubt, however, that Eric Zemmour would continue to grace television platforms.”
Kenzi Adam published an opinion piece in Algerie Patriotique, writing: “Eric Zemmour, convicted by the French justice system, becomes a delinquent who can no longer take refuge behind a veil of self-righteousness, masked in freedom of expression, or present himself as a martyr of the latter.” Adam added, “At ease in the culture of privilege and nourished by these freedoms, Zemmour displays the cynicism of a parvenu who pretends to speak in the name of the excluded, rural and urban, united in their intention to create a landless and soilless Islam.”
Others pointed to the potential implications of Zemmour’s sentencing on freedom of speech. In an op-ed in Causeur, Anne Sophie Chazaud writes: “The real question posed by this umpteenth public opinion trial is the state of freedom of expression in a country which, although boasting of it often, seems profoundly lacking in this domain, to a point of concern for democracy and fundamental freedoms.” Chazaud asks, “Is it still possible to criticize Islam or certain practices related to Islam without being hanged in the Place de Grève by the master censors… Can we still really debate?”