Two emblematic cases of the #Metoo wave before the Court of Cassation.

They concern the former minister Pierre Joxe and the journalist Eric Brion accused by women of sexual assault or harassment.

At first instance, the court ruled in favor of the two plaintiffs who considered themselves defamed by their accusers.

But the Paris Court of Appeal then overturned these judgments, considering that the denunciations fell under freedom of expression.

The Advocate General of the Court ruled on Tuesday for the quashing of the judgments.

The Court will therefore have to decide on May 11 on the delicate border between freedom of expression and defamation.

“It seems to me that the Court of Cassation could, after recalling the importance of the fundamental freedom of expression (…) stress that a balance must nevertheless be preserved (…) between this freedom and the protection of the individual rights of citizens , which is reflected in particular through the action for defamation”, estimated Blandine Mallet-Bricout.

The question of “good faith” in the Pierre Joxe case

Regarding the "good faith", which the Court of Appeal had recognized in the two accusers, "the Court of Cassation could insist on the need to demonstrate, in order to benefit from this exception, a sufficient factual basis, that is to say evidence to characterize the likelihood of the facts reported”, wished the Advocate General.

In the case involving Pierre Joxe, his accuser Ariane Fornia, daughter of Nicolas Sarkozy's former minister Eric Besson, had been sentenced, in defamation at first instance, to pay him to Pierre Joxe, a symbolic euro in damages. and 3,000 euros for his legal costs.

But last year, the Paris Court of Appeal overturned this judgment, finding that Ariane Fornia could "benefit from the justifying fact of good faith".

Tuesday at the hearing, the lawyer for the former minister, Me Claire Waquet, pointed out that Ariane Fornia "accused Mr. Joxe of sexual assault without sufficient factual basis to impute to him the acts of sexual assault of which she said to have been a victim.

“Requiring a high standard of proof, in particular direct proof of the alleged facts, can disproportionately affect freedom of expression”, pleaded for his part the lawyer for Ms. Fornia, Me Emmanuel Piwnica.

A tweet story in the Éric Brion affair

The other case, examined on Tuesday by the Court of Cassation, broke out in October 2017, when journalist Sandra Muller launched the hashtag #BalanceTonPorc.

In the process, she had opened the ball of accusations by writing in a tweet: “You have big breasts.

You are my type of woman.

I will make you cum all night long.

Éric Brion ex-boss of Equidia #BalanceTonPorc”.

At first instance, the court ordered Ms. Muller to pay 15,000 euros in damages to Eric Brion, considering that calling him a stalker "without sufficient factual basis" was defamatory.

But there again, the Paris Court of Appeal had reversed this judgment in March 2021 and dismissed the complainant.

In this case, "the disputed tweet cannot be considered as being likely to stir up violence and hatred," said the Advocate General on Tuesday.

But she judged that “social networks, by the frequent spontaneity of the exchanges which take place there, constitute a breeding ground favorable to exaggerations or even overflows in the formal expression of opinions, ideas, information”.

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  • Society

  • Justice

  • MeToo

  • Swing Your Pig

  • Defamation

  • Court of Cassation

  • sexual assault

  • Sexual violence

  • Freedom of expression

  • Sexual harassment

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