French law protects flag after bottom-wiping incident

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France has introduced a new law to protect its national flag from insult after a photo of a man wiping his bottom with the red, white and blue tricolour prompted outrage, officials said Friday.

Courts will impose a 1,500-euro (1,900-dollar) fine on anyone caught trying to "destroy, damage or use the flag in a degrading manner," according to the law published in the official gazette.

Publishing photographs of attacks on the flag, even if the attacks are carried out in a private place, will also be punished, it said.

The new law comes after an incident in March in which the backside wiping picture won a prize in a photo contest organised by a book and record shop in the city of Nice.

When it was later published in a free national newspaper it sparked outrage, with Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie calling for criminal proceedings to be launched against what her spokesman called "this unacceptable act."

Insulting the French national anthem or the tricolour flag during a publicly organised event was previously punishable by up to six months' imprisonment and a fine of 7,500 euros.

To count as an offence, the insult had to be committed during an event organised or regulated by the public authorities, which was not the case with the bottom photograph.

© 2010 AFP

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