The head of the editorial staff of “La Provence” reinstated but the unions remain mobilized

Faced with an indefinite strike of journalists, the management of the regional daily Provence, owned by the shipowner CMA CGM, has decided to reinstate the editorial director laid off on Friday due to a headline on Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Marseille. “The management of ‘La Provence’ is pleased to announce an agreement with Aurélien Viers, editorial director” whose “withdrawal of the layoff (…) was decided after a working meeting with Gabriel d’ Harcourt, general manager,” the title states in a press release.

The journalists of the regional daily, who denounced on Friday “inadmissible editorial interference” and “political pressure”, went on indefinite strike, supported by numerous colleagues, including those from other titles belonging to the Franco-Lebanese billionaire Rodolphe Saadé, who heads the shipowner CMA CGM, based in Marseille. Despite the reinstatement of Aurélien Viers, which is “a first step”, write the trade union organizations (SNJ, CFE-CGC, CFDT) of La Provence in a press release on Sunday, “many questions remain unanswered”. They are therefore maintaining the mobilization planned for Monday at 10:00 a.m. in front of the newspaper’s headquarters in Marseille to “decide on the follow-up to be given to the movement”.

Because the discussions between management and the head of the editorial office, from which they say they were “kept aside”, if “they resulted in satisfying one of the strikers’ demands, deliver a conclusion which remains problematic”, according to them, the management evoking a “call to order” from Aurélien Viers while “no journalistic and ethical error (has) been committed”. “It’s not certain that the strike will be canceled. We’re going to have another general meeting tomorrow,” a journalist from The galleryanother media in the fold of CMA CGM, whose editorial team voted massively for a strike this Tuesday, judging “the interventionism of Rodolphe Saadé and its media subsidiary WhyNot Media (…) unacceptable”.

After taking over the La Provence group (daily Provence And Corsica Morning) in 2022, Rodolphe Saadé took a stake in M6, bought The gallery and announced last week the acquisition of Altice Media, parent company of BFMTV in particular.

“Red line crossed”

If they “welcome the reinstatement of the editorial director of La Provence”, the companies of the journalists of BFMTV and RMC, as well as the Altice Media unions (SNJ, CGT and SNME-CFDT) also believe in a communicated that by “intervening directly with the director of the publication, the shareholder has crossed a red line” and say they are “ready to mobilize” if “the independence of the editorial staff and editorial freedom” were once again threatened.

In the immediate future, the “symbolic gathering” they called for on Monday at 10 a.m. is, however, canceled, according to a union representative from the SNJ of Altice Media. Rodolfe Saadé is often presented as close to President Macron, who has repeatedly visited the headquarters of CMA CGM during his visits to Marseille.

The crisis at Provence started with the announcement of the dismissal of the editorial director for the front page of Thursday’s daily, crossed out with the title “He (Emmanuel Macron, editor’s note) is gone and we are still here…”, repeating the words of a resident of the impoverished town of La Castellane, in Marseille, interviewed on the inside page. The title overlooks a photo showing two people, from behind, watching a police officer pass on patrol in this city of the second largest city in France, where the President of the Republic came by surprise on Tuesday to announce an “XXL net square” operation, which he presented as “unprecedented” against drug trafficking.

This quote “was reprinted on the front page, without being explicitly sourced. This error in the composition of the front page is problematic, with some readers believing that this quote came from drug traffickers. It is at the origin of the call to order of the editorial director”, states in its press release the management, which also apologizes to readers for the non-publication of the newspaper on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

A union representative from the SNJ had, however, stressed that the editorial staff had not received any complaints from readers following this front page, “just a few tweets from local elected officials”. Another had denounced “political pressure” which led to the dismissal of Aurélien Viers. “At the end of a constructive discussion initiated for several months by the management of the newspaper, the editorial staff and the unions representing them, the charter of editorial independence and ethics of ‘La Provence’ will be promulgated by April 15”, indicated the management of La Provence.

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