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France

Don't call us 'far right', says France's Marine Le Pen

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2013-10-04

Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, says she will take journalists and media outlets who describe her party as “far-right” to court, calling the term “defamatory” and “insulting”.

The leader of France’s anti-EU and anti-immigration National Front (FN) said Thursday that she wants to take media organisations who call her party “far right” to court.

Marine Le Pen described the term as “defamatory” and “insulting”, and insisted that using it went “against the standards of journalistic impartiality”.

The FN, she said, was “neither left wing nor right wing” and simply had radically different ideas from the mainstream parties such as the UMP (centre-right opposition) and the ruling Socialists.

“All I ask is that the media, who in France are obliged to be impartial, stop using this term in a way that is deliberately intended to damage the party,” she said in a debate on BFM-TV.

The FN’s lawyer, Wallerand de Saint-Just, added that the party would not try the impossible and sue every news outlet that used the term “far-right”.

“We can’t do this willy-nilly, that would be a mammoth task,” he said. “But if we do decide to go to court, it will be if the term is used to associate the party with Nazis, racism, anti-Semitism, and murder.”

The FN a 'very different beast' 

Jean-Yves Camus, a leading French expert on far-right politics in France, agreed that it would be impossible to impose an outright ban on the term to describe the FN.

“They already tried that in the 1980s,” he explained. “The courts rejected it then and no judge would even consider it.”

But Camus conceded that the party was right to object to statements linking it to “old school” fascism of the 1930s and 1940s.

“The FN, while it is a far-right political movement, is a very different beast,” he told FRANCE 24. “Calling the FN Nazi or fascist is not true any more. Journalists do have a responsibility not to get this wrong.”

Founded in 1972 by Marine Le Pen’s father Jean Marie, the FN began as a mix of neo-fascists and those nostalgic for Vichy-era French leader Philippe Pétain and French colonial rule in Algeria.

Firebrand Jean Marie Le Pen repeatedly made headlines for calling the Holocaust a “mere detail” of the Second World War.

Marine Le Pen took over the party leadership in 2011, and has consistently worked to soften the party’s image and move it away from the racism and anti-Semitism it has been associated with in the past. Marine Le Pen focused the party instead on repatriating powers from Europe and slashing immigration.

In the 2012 presidential election, she came third in the first round with 17.9 percent of the national vote.

Date created : 2013-10-04

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