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Gaël Perdriau case: justice authorizes Mediapart to publish its investigation


Justice finally authorized the online media Mediapart on Wednesday to publish an investigation accusing the mayor of Saint-Etienne Gaël Perdriau (ex-LR) of having spread a “criminal rumor” against a political rival, the president from the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Laurent Wauquiez region. By a court decision, considered an unprecedented act of “censorship” of a media in France by many journalists and defenders of freedom of expression, the city councilor from Saint-Etienne, already mired in a case of alleged blackmail, had obtained November 18 the publication ban of this article.

Mediapart immediately broadcasts its investigation into Perdriau

“Justice is retracting the ordinance which prohibited us from publishing our investigation into the political methods of Gaël Perdriau”, tweeted Mediapart which immediately distributed the article “after 12 days of censorship”. “Mediapart reveals that the mayor of Saint-Etienne launched a criminal rumour, which he now acknowledges is pure slander, against the regional president Laurent Wauquiez”, says the preamble to this article.

The LR president of the Auvergne Rhône Alpes region announced his intention to file a complaint for defamation against Gaël Perdriau shortly after.

“An unprecedented attack on freedom of the press”

Last Friday, the director of the investigative media, Edwy Plenel, came to ask the Paris court “to put an end as soon as possible to an unprecedented attack on the freedom of the press”. But the case was put under advisement, to the disappointment of Mediapart, supported at the hearing by Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), trade unions, the Human Rights League and associations of the judicial press and lawyers practicing press law.

These aimed at the retraction of an order, issued urgently by the same court on November 18, at the request of the mayor of Saint-Etienne who had invoked an invasion of privacy, without Mediapart being able to defend itself. This decision prohibited him from publishing new information taken from an audio recording of the elected representative from Saint-Etienne, after a series of revelations on a case of blackmail on intimate video.

Journalists denounced the proliferation of “gag procedures”

However, the Mediapart investigation presents a “major public interest”, argued Edwy Plenel, recounting how a mayor uses “the poison of slander” as a “political weapon to discredit” an opponent, Laurent Wauquiez. Above all, “it is not for the court to check beforehand information that has not been published”, insisted Mediapart’s lawyer, Emmanuel Tordjman. “It is the seriousness of your decision”, he had launched to the magistrate Violette Baty, asking her to retract the order made by her.

The latter reconsidered its first decision considering that there had been “retention of information” on “the exact state” of the discussions between Mediapart and Gaël Perdriau and without the possibility of contradictory on the part of the media which n had not been informed of the procedure, according to the decision that AFP was able to consult.

Freedom of the press at stake

Through this affair, the freedom of the press is at stake, estimated in a text of support for Mediapart around thirty journalists’ companies, denouncing more broadly the multiplication of “gag procedures” in France and the recent lawsuits initiated by the group. Altice (SFR, BFMTV) against the information site Reflets, seen as “a diversion” of press law.

Coincidentally, the appeal hearing on this last case is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Versailles. Attacked before the commercial court for having published articles based on documents stolen by computer hackers, the Reflets site was prohibited from publishing new ones.

This “prior censorship” poses “a problem for all investigative journalists, most of the documents they use not having been published or communicated by their initial owners since this poses a concern for their image”, explains to the AFP Antoine Champagne, editor-in-chief of Reflets. Asked by AFP, Altice, who shares the same lawyer as Gaël Perdriau, did not wish to comment.





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