PARIS - A photograph of a man wiping his bottom with the French flag prompted the government on Wednesday to demand criminal proceedings against the artist that produced it.
The image, one of the winners in a photo contest organised by the book and record shop FNAC in the southern city of Nice, sparked a controversy after it appeared last month in a free national newspaper, Metro.
Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie “has demanded that criminal proceedings be launched against this unacceptable act,” said justice ministry spokesman Guillaume Didier.
“Presumably the law has the legal means to punish such an intolerable act against the French flag,” he added. “If the existing law proves incomplete in this regard, it should be revised.”
The decision was made after the ministry received a letter from Eric Ciotti, a deputy from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party and president of the Alpes-Maritime region, who deemed the image “offensive” and called for an investigation
He said he had received complaints-from French war veterans-while members of the public-told him the photographer should go to prison.
But Eric de Mongolfier, the Nice prosecutor, said the image did not constitute an offence because it was produced in a 'creative spirit'.
Frederic Vezard, editor of the Metro newspaper which published the photograph, said: 'It is a question of knowing what the limits of art, provocation and freedom of speech are.'
'Insulting' the French flag or the national anthem during a publicly organised event is punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of £7,000