French #MeToo founder vindicated in appeal ruling

French #MeToo founder vindicated in appeal ruling

Paris (Brussels Morning) A female French journalist credited with launching the French version of the #MeToo movement was vindicated on Wednesday in an appeal ruling which overturned her defamation conviction for publicly pointing out her abuser, AFP reported.

Sandra Muller launched the French offshoot of the #MeToo movement by creating the viral hashtag #balancetonporc (expose your pig), accusing TV executive Eric Brion of inappropriate behaviour towards her.

She was found guilty of defamation by a French court in September 2019, after the court ruled that she had provided no proof of her claims of sexual harassment. Even though Brion admitted to making inappropriate remarks, French law defines harassment as requiring repeated offences or “serious” pressure.

Acted in good faith

The Paris Court of Appeal overturned the guilty verdict on Muller on Wednesday, in what some are calling an “historic victory” for victims of sexual harassment in France. The appeals court ruled that, even if Brion did suffer as being the first man denounced under the French version of the #MeToo hashtag, “Sandra Muller should be recognised as having acted in good faith”.

Muller’s attorney Jade Dousselon said the ruling came as a huge relief for her client, and represented a win for all victims of harassment. “The appeals court is saying to the victims, to all those who spoke out, to all those who spoke the truth, that those people will not be convicted”, Dousselon declared.

No regrets

During the trial, Brion argued that Muller’s post wrongly labelled him as a sex offender, and that the publicity surrounding the incident ruined his career. Muller also claimed that her career had suffered from being associated with #balancetonporc, but she said she had no regrets about speaking out.

Following the initial verdict, Muller slammed the lower court’s decision as sending a message that women should “shut up” about sexual harassment and abuse.

Reportedly, Brion had told Muller at a Cannes event in 2012 that she has big breasts, is his type of woman, and that he would “make her orgasm all night”. Brion told the court he later apologised, although Muller maintains she never received his apology.