A French court opened a preliminary inquiry into a far-right magazine on Wednesday after the government complained about a front cover comparing France’s black justice minister to a monkey.
The magazine, whose cover exploits the fact that “banana” means “smile” in French slang, will add to fears of a rise in racism in France, coming weeks after a far-right local election candidate compared Taubira to a monkey on national TV.
A spokesman for the Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed it would open a preliminary investigation on a possible charge of racist insult, a first step before a possible full inquiry.
Racial insults in public are punishable by up to six months in jail and fines of up to 25,000 euros. Latest circulation figures for “Minute” in 2006 puts it at 40,000.
The attacks against Taubira, who was born in French Guiana, coincide with growing support for Marine Le Pen’s far-right party National Front party in parts of France hit hardest by factory closures and joblessness stuck above 11 percent.
Le Pen banned a candidate who compared Taubira to a monkey from running in a March 2014 local election. Another candidate was banned days later for belittling the Holocaust, a series that could hurt Le Pen’s election chances.
The string of racist attacks on Taubira has prompted critics like Harry Roselmack–the first black prime-time news host on French public TV–to denounce a climate of worsening racial tension and increasingly uninhibited use of hate speech.
Such attacks are not limited to France. Cecile Kyenge, an Italian citizen born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been the target of repeated racial slurs since her appointment as integration minister in April.