PARIS — A court docket in Paris on Wednesday discovered a conservative French journal responsible beneath French hate speech legal guidelines of constructing racist insults over a fictional narrative that it printed final 12 months depicting a lawmaker as an enslaved African who was put up for public sale within the 18th century.
The journal, Valeurs Actuelles, brought on outrage in France after it printed a seven-page fictional narrative about Danièle Obono, 41, a French legislator for the far-left France Unbowed celebration who’s Black and was born within the former French colony of Gabon.
The piece was accompanied by photos — together with one in all Ms. Obono with chains round her neck — prompting condemnation from the federal government and politicians from events throughout the political spectrum. Ms. Obono referred to as it “an insult to my historical past, to my household and ancestral histories, to the historical past of slavery.”
The writer of Valeurs Actuelles, Erik Monjalous, who was charged with making discriminatory public insults, was fined 1,500 euros, or about $1,750. The journal’s editor in chief, Geoffroy Lejeune, and the writer of the article, Laurent Jullien, each accused of being complicit in that offense, have been fined the identical quantity. All three have been ordered to pay Ms. Obono 5,000 euros in damages.
“Justice is served,” Ms. Obono, who represents Paris within the decrease home of Parliament, said on Twitter. “We’re right here, we’re right here to remain, and we received’t go away. And in the long run, we’ll win.”
The publication of the article got here as France is having a rising and infrequently troublesome reckoning with its colonial and slave-trading previous. Many say that painful historical past is just too usually ignored; figures on the precise and far-right complain that it’s too usually exaggerated.
The article by Valeurs Actuelles, printed final August, was a part of a sequence of quick narratives, written by an nameless writer, that depicted modern political figures in earlier historic intervals.
The narrative about Ms. Obono, set within the 18th century, positioned her in a small village in present-day Chad, the place it stated she was initially delighted to “reconnect along with her roots” earlier than rising disillusioned by the village’s “patriarchal order.” The narrative continued by portraying her as captured and falling into the inter-African slave commerce, earlier than being purchased by a French cleric who frees her and takes her to a monastery in France to get well from the expertise.
Confronted with a firestorm of criticism, editors on the journal apologized however denied that the story and the pictures have been racist. As a substitute, they stated, the story was satire meant to remind readers that slavery in Africa had not solely been perpetrated by Europeans, but in addition by Africans.
French regulation criminalizes some types of hate speech, together with publicly insulting somebody on ethnic or spiritual grounds. Prosecutors in Paris opened an investigation a number of days after the article was printed, and a trial was held in June.
France’s Human Rights League, which took half within the trial, welcomed the ruling in an announcement on Wednesday, saying that “whereas fiction should be free, it can’t function a fig-leaf for intentionally racist and insulting speech.”
Valeurs Actuelles, a small, normal newsmagazine established in 1966, has usually been accused of offensive or incendiary protection. In Might, it brought on a stir by publishing an nameless letter, purportedly written by active-duty troops within the French army, that warned of an impending “civil battle” fueled by Islamism and id politics.