France: Defamation suit against 2 NGOs & 3 media outlets by companies linked to the Bolloré group begins

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Article
25 January 2018

Op-ed – We won’t be silenced by Bolloré gag suits!

Author: 50 grass-roots collectives, journalists, media outlets and NGOs

Today, a court in Paris will begin hearing the defamation suit that the Luxembourg-based holding company Socfin and its Cameroonian subsidiary Socapalm have brought against three French media outlets (MediapartL’Obs and Le Point) and two NGOs (Sherpa and ReAct) over articles about protests by rural residents and farmers who live near plantations run by these two companies in West Africa.

The two companies are closely linked to the French conglomerate Bolloré...

...Since 2009, more than 20 defamation suits have been brought in France – or in other countries in order to circumvent France’s 1881 press freedom law – by the Bolloré group or Socfin in response to articles, TV reports, NGO reports and even a book... More than 40 reporters, photographers, media lawyers, NGO representatives and media CEOs have been involved.

...[W]e regard these legal actions as “gag suits” – lawsuits designed to suppress criticism...They constitute direct attacks on the public interest and freedom of expression, and they target local communities, journalists, grass-roots groups, lawyers and whistlelowers – all the links in the chain for defending rights.

...France needs legislative amendments akin to those adopted in Quebec province and in certain US and Australian states that strengthen freedom of expression and provide better protection for the targets of gag suits. 

[Also refers to Socapalm]

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Article
25 January 2018

Sherpa and other French civil society organisations face libel claim for exposing alleged land grabbing by Bolloré Group

Author: Sherpa

A hearing in the lawsuit against Sherpa, the NGO ReAct and three French media companies (Mediapart, L’Obs and Le Point) begins today, 25th of January. The non-profit organisations face a lawsuit for allegedly defaming the Luxembourg-based entity Socfin on account of its coverage of the activities conducted by the company’s subsidiary Socapalm in Cameroon. Both entities belong to the Bolloré Group...

...According to the NGOs, this lawsuit pertains to a broader strategy called SLAPP (“Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”) ... The organisations count over 20 legal proceedings initiated by Bolloré or Socfin since 2009. In total, around 50 journalists, lawyers, NGOs and media directors have been sued by Bolloré or its partner entities in these procedures.

...[NGOs] mention other “regular” actions by the Bolloré Group to impede freedom of press... 

...The “We will not shut up!” collective..aims at mobilising public opinion and at promoting reforms in the French legal system to increase protection of freedom of expression against any kind of censorship.

[Also refers to Socapalm]

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