Outrage in France over new slur on black minister
Paris: A weekly newspaper with a front page comparing a black government minister to a monkey hit newsstands in France, despite legal objections and a nationwide outcry over the racist slur.
Amid mounting concern over similar recent incidents, the far-right satirical publication Minute went on sale with a cover featuring a picture of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira and headlines which read: "Crafty as a monkey" and "Taubira gets her banana back" yesterday.
The text is deliberately ambiguous: the term "crafty as a monkey" in French can be used as praise while getting your banana back is roughly the equivalent of recovering the spring in your step.
Taubira herself described the newspaper`s words as "extremely violent" and "denying she belonged to the human race".
The provocative cover page was also an obvious reference to two other recent cases of Taubira being publicly likened to a monkey, incidents which have triggered much soul-searching among liberal commentators over a perceived surge in intolerance.
Taubira warned last week that the country`s social cohesion was under threat from a disintegration of long-standing taboos on the expression of overtly racist ideas.
Minute`s front page provoked an outcry amongst politicians with many of them calling for the magazine`s editor and publisher to be prosecuted for incitement of racial hatred.
Even the far-right National Front (FN), branded the coverage "extremely shocking and unacceptable."
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault registered a formal complaint with the Paris prosecutor over the contents of the magazine.
The move triggered the opening of a preliminary investigation but, in light of France`s strong tradition of freedom of expression, legal experts indicated there was little the government could do to prevent the 40,000 copies of the magazine that have been printed from reaching the public.
A spokesman for the distributor, Presstalis, said it could only block the magazine`s distribution on the basis of a court order, which had not been issued.
Taubira is a hate figure for some on the right in French politics, partly as she was the minister responsible for the legalisation of gay marriage earlier this year.
At the end of last month, a group of children attending an anti-Taubira/anti-gay marriage demonstration were filmed chanting "monkey, eat your banana".
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