Marine Le Pen Faces Three Years in Prison for Anti-ISIS Tweets

Few Western democracies have anything quite like our First Amendment. This is a case where the United States gets it right. 

AP (“French far-right leader Marine Le Pen charged over IS photos“):

French prosecutors filed preliminary charges Thursday against far-right leader Marine Le Pen for tweeting brutal images of Islamic State violence, in a new blow to a woman long seen as the face of Europe’s anti-immigrant populism.

The prosecutor’s office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre said the charges were issued Thursday for “distribution of violent images.” If the case eventually reaches trial and she’s convicted, Le Pen could face up to three years in prison and 75,000 euros ($90,000) in fines.

Le Pen’s December 2015 tweets showed executions by IS extremists, including the killing of American reporter James Foley. She posted them in the wake of the November 2015 IS attacks on Paris, as she accused the government of not doing enough to protect France.

Le Pen, like her father before her, is an awful human being. But the notion that she should be fined, much less go to prison, for engaging in speech—against perhaps the vilest terrorist organization in history—is just crazy.

As I’ve noted many times over the years, few of our fellow Western democracies have anything quite like our First Amendment. Most of them regulate speech that might offend much more vigorously than we do. While I understand the sentiment behind many of these restrictions, this is a case where the United States gets it right.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mike Schilling says:

    I can’t disagree, of course.

    Though I’d smile if she were convicted and sentenced to tweeting pictures of atrocities Vichy was complicit in.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    Spot on, James, about both Le Pen and freedom of speech.

  3. Mark Ivey says:

    She can always flee to America and ask Trump for asylum when the Gendarmerie come for her with handcuffs out..

  4. Kylopod says:

    I would expand on this point. Not only does France lack free-speech protections like those found in America’s First Amendment, they also lack the same religious protections. They actually have a law against the wearing of religious symbols in public schools–which in practice is a ban on religious headcoverings such as found among Muslims and Jews. Ironically, Le Pen has called for extending the ban to all public places.

    It’s like the country has got its priorities completely backwards. It’ll ban you from speaking hateful rhetoric about particular religions, but it’ll also prohibit you from fully practicing those religions.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    Certainly agree with respect to this case. However it’s hard to argue that we get this right when our politics are flooded with dark money and the Supremes appear about to cripple public sector unions with a bogus free speech argument.

  6. JohnMcC says:

    Didn’t really get much information from the AP link about the actual law she is charged under but it appears that it’s about the horror and bloodiness of the scenes that she posted rather than any advocacy of policies or persons. If that’s the case, I’m somewhat more sympathetic to the French court. I’d relate it to, just to pick something horrible, an actual rape of a child posted on a open site.

    I have an intolerance for those who blithely advocate war and massacre (which – mixed with a bit of liquor – has led my ass to be fairly prominently displayed on these pages) and although there is of course no way to control videos and images I am sort of glad someone is trying.

  7. Tyrell says:

    Cut off any trade and foreign aid to France.