French #MeToo movement founder loses court case
In October 2017, journalist Sandra Muller tweeted that the television producer Eric Brion had made lewd comments at a party using the hashtag #balancetonporc or “squeal on your pig”.
Time Magazine featured Muller among #MeToo “silence breakers” in its 2017 “Person of the Year” issue.
Her story led to thousands of other women share experiences of sexual harassment and assault.
The Paris court yesterday (Wednesday) ordered Muller to pay €15,000 in damages to Brion plus €5,000 in legal fees, according to Muller’s lawyer.
Muller, a French journalist based in the US, was reportedly ordered to delete the tweet and share the court’s statements.
In June, Brion, a media consultant and former head of the TV channel Equidia, told the court he had made inappropriate remarks but added that he apologised by SMS the following day.
In May, Brion’s legal team defended his “right to flirt” while Muller’s representatives defended her freedom of expression.
He said: “Muller’s violence against me has never stopped. The violence of people hiding behind their phones.”
His lawyer, Marie Burguburu, said the defamation suit was taken because Muller tweeted that he was guilty of “sexual harassment at work”.
Brion said that he would rather be tried in a court of law than in the court of social media.
Muller vowed to keep fighting.
“It’s a proceeding that’s intended to silence the victims,” she told the media. “The message is clear: ‘Be quiet.’”
“This decision does not mean women have to stop talking. Women have to keep expressing themselves, women have to continue denouncing reprehensible behaviour – all of them,” the activist said. “Fear must not win.”
Muller’s lawyer, Francis Szpiner, said the ruling could affect what is considered sexual harassment in France.
The decision gives men a licence to behave poorly and “if they only do it one time, it will be excused by the court”.
This year, Denis Baupin, a former vice-president of the lower house in the French parliament, lost a defamation case against six women who accused him of sexual harassment and four journalists who reported on the allegations.
His decision to sue for defamation was seen as a backlash against the French equivalent of the #MeToo movement.
Picture credit: Wikimedia