Michelangelo Flori, who owns around 400 billboards in the south department du Var, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: “I have just learned that I will be heard tomorrow at the Toulon police station following a complaint from the President of the Republic. “
“So in Macronia we can make fun of the prophet’s ass, it’s satire, but to pass the president off as a dictator is blasphemy,” he added.
The offending poster depicts Macron in the uniform of the Nazi leader Hitler, with a small mustache, a wick on his forehead and the acronym of the presidential movement LREM transformed into a swastika. A message reads, “Obey, get vaccinated. “
It has been shown in recent days on two billboards measuring four meters by three meters located on a four-lane road near the entrance to Toulon. Someone had written “Shame” on one of them.
The Toulon prosecutor’s office on Tuesday opened an investigation for “public insult”.
The offense of “insulting the President of the Republic” was repealed in 2013 after a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights condemning France, but the head of state is safe from injury and public defamation like any ordinary citizen, although prosecutions, sometimes seen as an infringement of freedom of expression, are rare.
Flori defended himself by saying, “You see Hitler, but you can see Stalin, or I see Charlie Chaplin in The Dictator. “
These posters aim to challenge “this democracy where decisions are taken without discussion within a board of health,” he explained.
This is not the first time that his posters, which he regularly uses to comment on political or social issues, have drawn criticism or caused him legal trouble.
People against COVID-19 restrictions in France have likened the country to a dictatorship with some protesting the health pass – currently required to visit leisure and cultural places but soon extended to bars, restaurants and transport by common long distance – seen wearing yellow stars reminiscent of those the Nazis forced Jews to wear.
European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune condemned the rhetoric by declaring: “I would like there to be a lot of dictatorships like Frace in the world.