The controversial French journalist Éric Zemmour has been found guilty of incitement to racial hatred after telling a TV chatshow that drug dealers were mostly “blacks and Arabs”.
The Paris trial sparked a fierce debate over freedom of speech and the extent of France’s racism problem, which is poisoning the republican ideal that all citizens are equal regardless of colour.
Zemmour, a well-known media commentator and columnist for Le Figaro, prides himself on his outspoken defiance of what he deems political correct, woolly liberals.
He appeared on a chatshow last year when the debate turned to the question of the French police’s excessive use of stop and search powers against minorities. He said: “But why are they stopped 17 times? Why? Because most dealers are blacks and Arabs. That’s a fact.”
According to the French model, where everyone is theoretically equal under a state blind to race or religion, it is illegal to count ethnic minorities or race statistics. So there are no figures on the ethnic identity of criminals.
Zemmour was also fined for telling another TV channel that employers “had a right” to turn down black or Arab candidates. Job discrimination over race and ethnicity is thought to be widespread in France.
Zemmour, whose parents were Jewish Berbers who emigrated from Algeria in the 1950s, told the court he was not a “provocateur” but a faithful observer of reality who refused political correctness. He was backed by several centre-right politicians and some on the left.
The state prosecutor accused him of using the “old stereotype that linked immigration to crime”.
Zemmour is the author of Mélancolie Française, which claims that France is doomed to collapse into civil war between Christians and Muslim “barbarians”.