French court defends the right to use Franglais

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PARIS (AFP) - France's right-wing government is putting on a brave face after the Constitutional Court threw out key parts of a controversial new French language law banning the use of foreign words. Jacques Toubon, the Culture Minister, who steered the much-mocked law through parliament, was unbowed and promised new legislation salvaging the uncontested parts of his Bill.

The Bill outlawed the use of foreign words between private individuals and by public and private organisations, radio and television. It was not clear how this could be enforced, and cynics said it would go the same way as the recent draconian law on smoking in public, which is widely flouted.

The Constitutional Court at the weekend decided that parts of 'Toubon's law' contravened the right to freedom of expression under the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and struck out the offending clauses. It objected to a provision making public grants for education and research dependent on publication of their work in French. All that remained of the law, passed on 30 June, was a weak recommendation to use French.

Mr Toubon curiously insisted on seeing the court's savaging of his law as 'an extremely positive satisfaction'. He made much of the fact that the court had accepted the principle that 'legislators can impose use of the French language under certain circumstances'.