Somehow this media courting fellow whose conservative shtick makes him aces with the rest of the world’s elites escapes scrutiny for his base authoritarianism (there’s a clue there about where neoliberalism is leading). It also helps he’s got a pretty new wife (and let’s be clear she is a daughter of wealth and privilege, enough with the fairy tale) a supposedly creative person (in the same way lots of rich kids get to be writers, artists, musicians…ahem) has not however stood up for freedom of expression and denounced her little Nicky.
On March 5, 2003, the door bell rang at the home of the French rapper Mohamed Bourokba, known as Hamé, and a bailiff informed him that the government was suing him for libel. The signature under the written complaint was familiar: Nicolas Sarkozy, then interior minister and now president of France. Five years, two appeals and countless hearings later, Hamé was acquitted Tuesday. Barring a petition to the final court of appeal by the government by Friday, the latest verdict brings to an end one of France’s most protracted and symbolic libel cases.
The length of the legal battle has raised the question of what freedom of speech really means in France. It also touches on the reputation and power of a president who has not shied even from suing a journalist perceived to be hostile – and whose tense relationship with youths in the suburbs has been a thread running through his political career.
It all started in April 2002, when Hamé’s group, La Rumeur, released its first album, and with it a magazine. Inside, the rapper had written an article accusing the police of acting with impunity in their treatment of immigrants and their descendants.
“The reports of the Interior Ministry will never acknowledge the hundreds of our brothers killed by the police without any of the murderers being held to account,” wrote Hamé, now 32, whose parents came from Algeria in the 1950s.
“The reality is that living in our neighborhoods today means you have a greater chance of experiencing economic abandon, of psychological vulnerability, of discrimination in the job market, of unstable housing, of regular police humiliations,” he wrote.
Sarkozy wrote a letter to the public prosecutor in July 2002, requesting that Hamé be sued. A year later the suit was formalized. Accused of “public libel against the national police,” Hamé was first acquitted in a trial court in 2004 and again in an appeals court in 2006. Then the Interior Ministry took the case to the top court of appeal, demanding that the judges annul the earlier verdict and arrange a second appeal. This time it won: In July 2007, not three months after Sarkozy had become president, the top appeals court ordered another appeals court in Versailles to rule again.
“I fear that the government cares less about the verdict and more about the deterrent created by a lengthy court case,” said Gwénaële Calvès, a professor of law and civil liberties specialist. “They are signaling that they don’t tolerate a certain type of criticism.”
Half a dozen rappers have been sued by the Interior Ministry and politicians over the past decade, according to Hamé’s lawyer, Dominique Tricaud, who has defended most of them.
The group Ministère AMER, in the 1990s, rapped about “sacrificing a pig.” More recently, the rapper Sniper sang about his mission to “exterminate ministers and fascists.” Most of them were acquitted. But none of their cases went beyond the first appeal.
What this is in part about is the continuing suppression of the history of fascists & racists and their roles in Paris, former Police Chief Maurice Papon for example who worked for the Nazis during the war and later as Police Chief oversaw the massacre of 200 Algerians, some of their bodies thrown in the Seine, in 1961.
It’s amazing what being a pro-corporate short arse with a MILF-y wife (or running mate) will get you in the media, a rock star level of attention and zero scrutiny of your political roots and context. At least Sarko’s fictional version got what was coming to him in Banlieue 13.